[PS-2.14] Prosody outweighs statistics: evidence from German

Marimon, M. & Höhle, B.

University of Potsdam

It is well established that infants are able to segment fluent speech into words from about 7-8 months of age (Gout, 2001; Höhle & Weissenborn, 2003; Jusczyk & Aslin, 1995). Research suggests that at least two mechanisms are used to do that. One is the prosody, especially the word stress pattern, and the other one is the so called statistical learning (i.e. transitional probabilities). However, the weight of these two mechanisms differs, and this also varies with age. Following the results from Thiessen & Saffran (2003), the purpose of the current study is to figure out the use of these mechanisms in German, in infancy as well as in adulthood.
In our study we familiarized German adults (n = 25) with a 2-min artificial iambic language string created with natural language and then tested them in a forced-choice task with three conditions: prosodic words, statistical words and non-words. Results showed that German monolingual adults rely more on the prosodic cues to segment words from the string. Using the same stimuli, 9-month German monolingual babies (n= 30) are currently being tested in the HPP procedure with a familiarization to the same string.