Diminutives facilitate word segmentation in natural speech: cross-linguistic evidence

Vera Kempe, Patricia J. Brooks, Steven Gillis, Graham Samson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Final-syllable invariance is characteristic of diminutives (e.g., doggie), which are a pervasive feature of the child-directed speech registers of many languages. Invariance in word endings has been shown to facilitate word segmentation (Kempe, Brooks, & Gillis, 2005) in an incidental-learning paradigm in which synthesized Dutch pseudonouns were used. To broaden the cross-linguistic evidence for this invariance effect and to increase its ecological validity, adult English speakers (n = 276) were exposed to naturally spoken Dutch or Russian pseudonouns presented in sentence contexts. A forced choice test was given to assess target recognition, with foils comprising unfamiliar syllable combinations in Experiments 1 and 2 and syllable combinations straddling word boundaries in Experiment 3. A control group (n = 210) received the recognition test with no prior exposure to targets. Recognition performance improved with increasing final-syllable rhyme invariance, with larger increases for the experimental group. This confirms that word ending invariance is a valid segmentation cue in artificial, as well as naturalistic, speech and that diminutives may aid segmentation in a number of languages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)762-773
Number of pages12
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Word segmentation
  • Language perception
  • Diminutives
  • Dutch
  • Russian


Dive into the research topics of 'Diminutives facilitate word segmentation in natural speech: cross-linguistic evidence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this