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

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Position and Vowel Quality Effects in Infants' Segmentation of Vowel-Initial Words

Amanda Seidl, Elizabeth K. Johnson

Johns Hopkins University, USA

Recent studies have argued that English-learning infants' ability to segment vowel-initial (V-initial) words is seriously delayed with respect to their ability to segment consonant-initial (C-initial) words and that segmentation of V-initial words may occur as late as 16-months of age. In contrast, infants' abilities to segment most C-initial words are well intact by 7.5-months. We investigated both phonetic and phonological explanations for researchers' failure to find evidence for the segmentation of V-initial words before 16-months. We found that V-initial words may be segmented as young as 11-months of age and that although vowel-quality did not affect ease of segmentation, V-initial words were segmented more readily when they occurred sentence-initially and hence were acoustically more prominent. This finding combined with the lack of a finding of a simple preference for C-initial over V-initial words provides evidence for a phonetic explanation for infants' difficulty with V-initial words.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Seidl, Amanda / Johnson, Elizabeth K. (2003): "Position and vowel quality effects in infants' segmentation of vowel-initial words", In ICPhS-15, 2233-2236.