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Volume 6 Issue 5 (November 2003), Pages 449-603

The basis of preference for lexical words in 6‐month‐old infants (pages 484-488)


Six‐month‐old English‐learning infants have been shown to prefer English lexical over English grammatical words. The preference is striking because there are few grammatical words in total number but each occurs far more frequently in input speech than any individual lexical word. This could be because lexical words are universally more salient and interesting acoustic and phonological forms than are grammatical words. Alternatively, familiarity may play a role since infants may know some specific lexical words. Here we explore the first possibility by testing Chinese‐learning infants’ response to English lexical and grammatical words. These infants, who had virtually no prior exposure to English and thus were unfamiliar with any English words, nevertheless preferred to listen to English lexical words, as in the case of English‐learning infants. This finding increases the plausibility that it is the acoustic and phonological salience of lexical words that determines the preference for lexical words in infants.

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