How infants go about word learning: Electrophysiological evidence of speech segmentation and word-referent mapping

Friday, 2018, April 27 - 12:00
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences


In language acquisition, infants face the challenge of segmenting the continuous speech input into words and phrases. As proposed by the prosodic bootstrapping account, prosodic information (i.e., so-called speech melody) provides a jump-start for infants’ speech segmentation.

Our research investigates this role of prosody in word learning by means of event-related brain potentials. In my talk, I will first outline a series of experiments investigating when during development word segmentation is established, with prosodic information as promoting speech cue. Second, I will show that prosodic information not only aids word segmentation, but also supports infants’ mapping of these words to visual referents, the objects and events in the surrounding world.



Männel, C., & Friederici, A. D. (2013). Accentuate or repeat? Developmental periods in infant word recognition. Cortex, 49(10), 2788–2798.

Teixidó, M., François, C., Bosch, L., & Männel, C. (2018). The role of prosody in early speech segmentation and word-referent mapping: Electrophysiological evidence (pp. 79–100). In N. Esteve-Gibert, & P. Prieto (Eds.), The Development of Prosody in First Language Acquisition. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.