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Reduplication facilitates early word segmentation*


This study explores the possibility that early word segmentation is aided by infants’ tendency to segment words with repeated syllables (‘reduplication’). Twenty-four nine-month-olds were familiarized with passages containing one novel reduplicated word and one novel non-reduplicated word. Their central fixation times in response to these as well as new reduplicated and non-reduplicated words introduced at test showed that familiarized reduplicated words were segmented better than familiarized non-reduplicated words. These results demonstrate that infants are predisposed to segment words with repeated phonological elements, and suggest that register-specific words in infant-directed speech may have evolved in response to this learning bias.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Mitsuhiko Ota, University of Edinburgh – Linguistics and English Language, Dugald Steward Building, Edinburgh EH8 9AD, United Kingdom. E-mail:
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This research was supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ES/J023825/1).

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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
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