Finding Verb Forms Within the Continuous Speech Stream
This chapter reviews how babies segment speech into nouns using prosodic and phonological cues, with a frank admission that the work on verbs is just beginning. It traces infants' transformation from language generalist to language specialist as infants discover the properties of their native language. In particular, it discusses research on how infants might zero in on the acoustic correlates of the word classes of noun and verb. The chapter describes how verbs are at a disadvantage (at least in English) from the start because of their “shorter durations, lower frequency of appearing in syntactic/prosodic constituent-final positions, and predominant stress pattern being the opposite of that of the majority of English words.” It is argued that verbs are isolated from the speech stream by 13.5 months, about 6 months later than when babies isolate nouns.
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