Stress as a cue for word segmentation by Dutch-learning 8-month-olds
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Among other cues, the native stress pattern is an important cue for word segmentation for infants. German infants show language-specific discrimination between stress patterns at 4 months and develop this into a preference for their native stress pattern at 6 months. From this moment on, they can start developing a stress based segmentation strategy. It has been found that English-learning infants are able to use their native stress pattern as a segmentation cue as early as 7.5 months. German, English and Dutch are stress-timed trochaic languages and it would thus be expected that Dutch-learning infants develop a preference for their native stress pattern within the period of 4 to 7.5 months and that they are also able to use this preference for word segmentation, resulting in a stress based segmentation strategy. This study investigated whether Dutch-learning infants have a preference for their native stress pattern at 6 and 8 months; whether the 8-month-olds are able to use stress as a segmentation cue and if so, which stress pattern facilitates segmentation for them. It was found that the 6-month-olds already have a preference for their native stress pattern. Furthermore, the 8-month-olds were able to segment words based on a universal cue, namely stress clash, but they did not show the ability to segment words using their native stress pattern.