Looking for the edge: emerging segmentation abilities in atypical development

Sónia Frota, Jovana Pejovic, Cátia Severino, Marina Vigário


The ability to extract word-forms from continuous speech plays a crucial role in language acquisition, particularly for vocabulary development. This ability develops differently across languages, and was recently shown to be modulated by prosody: words at prosodic edges are segmented earlier than in utterance-medial position. Studies on word segmentation in atypical development are scarce, and the role of prosody has not been explored. The current study investigated emerging segmentation abilities in European Portuguese (EP)-learning infants with Down Syndrome (DS), and in a mixed group of infants at-risk for language impairment (AR). We examined whether prosody facilitated word segmentation, as previously shown for EP typically developing infants (TD), and whether segmentation abilities correlated with concurrent language skills. DS, unlike AR infants, did not segment either at prosodic edge or medial position. AR, like TD, successfully segmented at the edge only, but unlike TD did not show the emergence of segmentation in medial position. Both DS and AR infants’ segmentation abilities at the prosodic edge were correlated with concurrent vocabulary scores measured with the CDI. Our findings demonstrate that prosody drives early segmentation abilities, and that segmentation abilities and receptive and expressive language skills are closely linked in atypical development.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-166

Cite as: Frota, S., Pejovic, J., Severino, C., Vigário, M. (2020) Looking for the edge: emerging segmentation abilities in atypical development. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 814-818, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-166.


@inproceedings{Frota2020,
  author={Sónia Frota and Jovana Pejovic and Cátia Severino and Marina Vigário},
  title={{Looking for the edge: emerging segmentation abilities in atypical development}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={814--818},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-166},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-166}
}