Is it easier to segment words from infant- than adult-directed speech? Modeling evidence from an ecological French corpus

AbstractInfants learn language by exposure to streams of speech produced by their caregivers. Early on, they manage to segment word forms out of this continuous input, which is either directly addressed to them, or directed to other adults, thus overheard. It has been suggested that infant-directed speech is simplified and could facilitate language learning. This study aimed to investigate whether features such as utterance length, segmentation entropy and lexical diversity could account for an advantage in segmentability of infant-directed speech. A large set of word segmentation algorithms was used on an ecologically valid corpus, consisting of 18 sets of recordings gathered from French-learning infants aged 3-48 months. A series of textual analyses confirmed several simplicity features of infant-, compared to adult-directed speech. A small segmentation advantage was also documented, which could not be attributed to any of those corpus features. Some particularities of the data invite further research on more corpora.

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