Distal prosody affects learning of novel words in an artificial language
The distal prosodic patterning established at the beginning of an utterance has been shown to influence downstream word segmentation and lexical access. In this study, we investigated whether distal prosody also affects word learning in a novel (artificial) language. Listeners were exposed to syllable sequences in which the embedded words were either congruent or incongruent with the distal prosody of a carrier phrase. Local segmentation cues, including the transitional probabilities between syllables, were held constant. During a test phase, listeners rated the items as either words or nonwords. Consistent with the perceptual grouping of syllables being predicted by distal prosody, congruent items were more likely to be judged as words than were incongruent items. The results provide the first evidence that perceptual grouping affects word learning in an unknown language, demonstrating that distal prosodic effects may be independent of lexical or other language-specific knowledge.