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Developmental Science - Early View Articles, Pages ${blockparams.parentJournalIssue.pageRange}

One language or two? Navigating cross‐language conflict in statistical word segmentation

Abstract Bilingual infants must navigate the similarities and differences between their languages to achieve native proficiency in childhood. Bilinguals learning to find individual words in fluent speech face the possibility of conflicting cues to word boundaries across their languages. Despite this challenge, bilingual infants typically begin to segment and learn words in both languages around the same time as monolinguals. It is possible that early bilingual experience may support infants’ abilities to track regularities relevant for word segmentation separately across their languages. In a dual speech stream statistical word segmentation task, we assessed whether 16‐month‐old infants could track syllable co‐occurrence regularities in two artificial languages despite conflicting information across the languages. We found that bilingual, but not monolingual, infants were able to segment the dual speech streams using statistical regularities. Although the two language groups did not differ on secondary measures of cognitive and linguistic development, bilingual infants’ real‐world experience with bilingual speakers was predictive of their performance in the dual language statistical segmentation task.

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