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Bootstrapping Lexical and Syntactic Acquisition



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LANGUAGE A Christophe AND SPEECH S Millotte 2008 51 S Bernal 1 2 61 J Lidz 75 61 Bootstrapping Lexical and Syntactic Acquisition Anne Christophe 1 2 S verine Millotte 1 3 Savita Bernal 1 Jeffrey Lidz 4 1 Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique EHESS CNRS DEC ENS Paris 2 Maternit Port Royal AP HP Facult de M decine Paris Descartes 3 Laboratoire de Psycholinguistique Exp rimentale Gen ve 4 Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Laboratory Department of Linguistics University of Maryland U S A Key words function words language acquisition phrasal prosody Abstract This paper focuses on how phrasal prosody and function words may interact during early language acquisition Experimental results show that infants have access to intermediate prosodic phrases phonological phrases during the first year of life and use these to constrain lexical segmentation These same intermediate prosodic phrases are used by adults to constrain on line syntactic analysis In addition by two years of age infants can exploit function words to infer the syntactic category of unknown content words nouns vs verbs and guess their plausible meaning object vs action We speculate on how infants may build a partial syntactic structure by relying on both phonological phrase boundaries and function words and present adult results that test the plausibility of this hypothesis These results are tied together within a model of the architecture of the first stages of language processing and their acquisition 1Introduction Infants acquiring language have to learn about the lexicon the phonology and the syntax of their native language For each of these domains being able to rely on knowledge from the other domains would simplify the learner s task For instance since syntactic structure spells out the relationships between words in a sentence it Acknowledgments The work presented in this paper was supported by a grant from the French ministry of Research to the first author ACI n JC6059 by two grants



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