15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Speaker Intent Influences Infants' Segmentation of Potentially Ambiguous Utterances

Elizabeth K. Johnson

Johns Hopkins University, USA

This study investigated infants' use of subphonemic cues to speaker intent to segment potentially ambiguous utterances (when all other cues to word boundaries are held constant). In Experiment 1, the HPP was used to familiarize English-learning 12-month-olds to one passage containing a S#WS target (e.g. "rue#bequest"), and one passage containing a SW#S target (e.g. "dogma#lines"). Subsequently, infants' were tested on lists of three types of stimuli: intended ("dogma" if familiarized with "dogma#lines"), unintended ("ruby" if familiarized with "rue#bequest"), and unfamiliar ("gumbo" if familiarized with "dogma#lines" and "rue#bequest"). Twelve-month-olds oriented significantly longer to intended words than unintended or unfamiliar words, demonstrating their use of subphonemic cues. Experiment 2 differed from Experiment 1 in only one respect: infants were tested on the weak-strong (WS) portion of the strings ("bequest" from "rue#bequest"/ "ruby#quest").
   In this case, 12-month-olds showed weak evidence of segmenting any words, intended or not. Possible explanations for these results are discussed.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Johnson, Elizabeth K. (2003): "Speaker intent influences infants' segmentation of potentially ambiguous utterances", In ICPhS-15, 1995-1998.