The effects of sign on speech segmentation in infants

Alma Rosa Acosta, University of Texas at El Paso


Introduction: The ability to extract words from fluent speech (speech segmentation), perhaps one of the greatest obscure achievements for the purpose of learning language, is dependent upon imperceptible endeavors. Remarkably, infants are active participants from the moment they are born, using auditory and visual information to assist them segmenting speech. As motivated parents attempt to use baby sign to bridge communication gaps, visual information in the form of baby sign may benefit children in extracting words from speech. To examine the effects of baby sign on speech segmentation, a systematic replication of the Hollich et al. (2005) study, a within-subject study, with sign as a visual cue was conducted on six-month-old infants. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine whether baby sign has an influence on the ability to segment speech in typical developing hearing infants. Methods: Seventeen typical developing six-month-old infants were familiarized with nonsense words using a sign + face, sign only and face only condition. A head-turn preference procedure was used to assess their ability to extract unfamiliar nonsense words from fluent speech. Results: The results suggest that infants as early as six-months of age can use faces to facilitate speech segmentation. However, to effectively extract words from fluent speech with the use of baby sign, prior exposure is essential.

Subject Area

Communication|Speech therapy|Language

Recommended Citation

Acosta, Alma Rosa, "The effects of sign on speech segmentation in infants" (2015). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1592781.