Successful word learning in first language acquisition requires three
components: segmentation of words from a continuous speech stream,
identification of real-word referents or concepts, and mapping of
linguistic label to meaning. This review presents behavioral
evidence for how prosody is integral to each of these processes,
with particular prosodic structures creating optimal word learning
environments. Different prosodic strategies aid the three facets of
word learning, with rhythm, stress, intonation, and phrasing
interacting to facilitate learning. For example, recent behavioral
work shows that word learning is enhanced when words appear at
prosodic phrase boundaries and when new words carry a more prominent
pitch accent. Finally, an integrative account of word learning is
discussed in light of these findings.
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