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Early word segmentation in infants acquiring Parisian French: task-dependent and dialect-specific aspects*

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  • Published online: 10 May 2013

Six experiments explored Parisian French-learning infants' ability to segment bisyllabic words from fluent speech. The first goal was to assess whether bisyllabic word segmentation emerges later in infants acquiring European French compared to other languages. The second goal was to determine whether infants learning different dialects of the same language have partly different segmentation abilities, and whether segmenting a non-native dialect has a cost. Infants were tested on standard European or Canadian French stimuli, in the word–passage or passage–word order. Our study first establishes an early onset of segmentation abilities: Parisian infants segment bisyllabic words at age 0;8 in the passage–word order only (revealing a robust order of presentation effect). Second, it shows that there are differences in segmentation abilities across Parisian and Canadian French infants, and that there is a cost for cross-dialect segmentation for Parisian infants. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding word segmentation processes.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Thierry Nazzi, Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Institut Pluridisciplinaire des Saints Pères, 45 rue des Sts Pères, 75006 Paris, France. tel: +33·1·42·86·43·15; fax: +33.1.42·86·33·22. e-mail:
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This study was conducted with the support of an ANR grant # 07-BLAN-0014-01 to TN and a grant from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada to LP. Special thanks to the infants and their parents for their kindness and cooperation, Léo-Lyuki Nishibayashi for help with the testing, and James White for carefully proofreading the manuscript.

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