Undergraduate Honours Theses
Previous research has indicated that infants as young as 3 days of age show sensitivity to prosodic stress patterns and can use this information to distinguish word boundaries (Christophe et al., 1994). Older infants have also exhibited an ability to use prosodic stress patterns to segment streams of speech (Echols et al., 1997) and have shown a preference for samples of speech with the patterns of prosody displayed by their native language versus the prosodic patterns typical of other non-native languages (Werker & Tees 1984, Juscyzk et al. 1993). Adults have demonstrated the ability of language discrimination based strictly on fine durational cues rather than a broad sensitivity to rhythm. The purpose of the current research was to investigate this ability in infants. Sixteen 6- to 10-month old infants were presented with two different trisyllabic non-words, consisting of three consonant vowel pairs varying in rhythmic duration, one with a rhythmic duration previously familiarized and one with a novel rhythmic duration. Infants were tested using a head-turn preference procedure. Results indicated that infants significantly preferred to listen to a novel durational pattern, which suggests that infants are able to rely entirely on fine durational cues to discriminate between speech samples.