Do English-Learning Infants use Syllable Weight to Determine Stress?

Alice E. Turk, Peter W. Jusczyk, Louann Gerken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Scopus citations

Abstract

A linguistic factor governing the assignment of English lexical stress is syllable weight. Heavy syllables which have either a long (tense) vowel or are closed with a consonant are heavy and automatically bear stress. Are infants sensitive to this aspect of the English stress system? Previous research by Jusczyk, Cutler, and Redanz (1993) showed that nine-month-olds listened longer to words exhibiting Strong-Weak than Weak-Strong stress pattern. However, they did not investigate the role of syllable weight in this preference. A series of three experiments explored infants' preference for Strong-Weak versus Weak-Strong lists, but systematically manipulated the syllable weight of Strong syllables. The results suggest that syllable weight is not a necessary component of the Strong-Weak preference observed in previous studies. Rather it appears that infants prefer both words that begin with a Strong syllable and Strong syllables that are heavy. Thus, the results suggest that sensitivity to surface linguistic patterns and the principles that underlie them may be independent in early language acquisition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-158
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage and Speech
Volume38
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1995

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Keywords

  • infants
  • stress
  • syllable weight
  • trochaic pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Speech and Hearing

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