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Volume 6 Issue 2 (April 2003), Pages 119-231

Prosodic structure and syntactic acquisition: the case of the head‐direction parameter (pages 211-220)


We propose that infants may learn about the relative order of heads and complements in their language before they know many words, on the basis of prosodic information (relative prominence within phonological phrases). We present experimental evidence that 6–12‐week‐old infants can discriminate two languages that differ in their head direction and its prosodic correlate, but have otherwise similar phonological properties (i.e. French and Turkish). This result supports the hypothesis that infants may use this kind of prosodic information to bootstrap their acquisition of word order.

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