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Abstract

Infants begin learning the phonological structure of their native language remarkably early and use this information to extract word-sized chunks from the speech signal. While acquiring the language-specific segmentation strategies appropriate for their native language, infants are simultaneously beginning to form word–object pairings and learning which sound contrasts are meaningful in the native language. They are also working out how to assign words to word classes, paying attention to the use and placement of function words, and learning how speakers of the language string words together to form sensible grammatical utterances. Amazingly, infants tackle all of these tasks simultaneously, with success in each of these domains dependent on success in the others. This review focuses on infants' discovery of word forms in speech, their construction of a proto-lexicon, and the development of linguistic knowledge during their first year and a half of life. By discussing the development of lexical knowledge in relation to other aspects of linguistic development, I demonstrate the advantages of an integrative approach to understanding early language acquisition.

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2016-01-14
2024-06-24
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