Prosodic Bootstrapping of Clauses: Is it Language-Specific?

Kara E Hawthorne, Reiko Mazuka, LouAnn Gerken


According to the Prosodic Bootstrapping Hypothesis, infants use prosody to support syntax acquisition (Morgan, 1986). Our previous work provides evidence that infants treat prosodically-marked units as moveable constituents. In order to investigate the mechanism underlying this effect, we tested Japanese-acquiring infants on their ability to use prosody to locate clauses in an English-based artificial grammar. The Japanese infants were able to learn from English prosody, suggesting that prosodic bootstrapping relies on prosody's general acoustic properties. It appears that prosodic cues to syntax are robust enough across languages to be used without extensive knowledge of language-specific prosody.

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