Voice and Language Discrimination by Dutch-learning Infants
|Voice and Language Discrimination by Dutch-learning Infants
|Year of Publication
|Workshop on First and Second Language Acquisition
|Johnson, Elizabeth, and Ellen Westrek
|Nederlandse Vereniging voor Fonetische Wetenschappen
|Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Linguists have argued that all languages belong to one of three rhythmic categories: stress-timed (e.g. English and Dutch), syllable-timed (e.g. Italian and Spanish), and mora-timed (e.g. Japanese). Acoustic studies have provided evidence for the physical reality of these three rhythmic categories, and psychological studies have demonstrated that language rhythm plays an important role in language acquisition and word segmentation.
Language discrimination studies with English-learning infants have revealed that infants younger than 2 months can hear the difference between two languages only if the two languages belong to different rhythmic classes. In other words, cross-category language pairs (e.g. Italian and Japanese) are discriminated whereas within-category language pairs (e.g. Dutch and English) are not. By 5 months, within-category discrimination is possible only if one of the within-category languages is the native language (e.g. English and Dutch). Thus, both rhythmic information as well as language familiarity play a role in early language discrimination.
In this talk, I will discuss language discrimination by Dutch-learning infants. Using the Switch paradigm, infants were habituated to three voices speaking Language 1, and tested on a fourth voice speaking Language 1 and a fifth voice speaking Language 2. In Experiment 1 (Dutch versus Japanese), infants dishabituated to Language 2 in the test phase regardless of which language they were habituated to. However, they only dishabituated to the new voice in Language 1 if Language 1 was Dutch. In Experiment 2 (Japanese versus Italian), infants once again dishabituated to Language 2 regardless of which language they were habituated to. Infants in both conditions failed to dishabituate to the new voice in Language 1. In Experiment 3, infants are being tested on two stress-timed languages: German and Dutch. Current results support the hypothesis that language rhythm and familiarity play an important role in voice and language discrimination by Dutch-learning infants.