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The Role of Rhythm and Intonation in Language Acquisition

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An important trait of human language is known as prosody which consists of the musical features of speech such as rhythm, pitch, and intonation. Infants have the ability to differentiate between rhythms since birth. A study concluded that those infants who were 2 to 3 months old could differentiate tones on the basis of the sequence of the rhythms. In order to study the capacity of an infant to process sentences, Mehler et al (1988) conducted an experiment that was based on the method of nonnutritive sucking. This experiment was performed by measuring the number of sucks that the infant produced when he was listening to speech passages.

He evaluated that a French infant who was merely 4 days old had the ability to differentiate between French; which was his mother tongue and Russian. Furthermore, these infants could also differentiate between English and Italian, both of which were unfamiliar for the baby (Hesketh, Christophe & Lambertz, 1997). Researches have also proved that the sensitivity of an infant the prosodic units and intonations serve as the building block in a Child’ s language acquisition.

Infants have the ability to differentiate between prosodic units and syllables. With the help of statistical learning, infants utilize the rhythmic structure of words to buildup their language and hence this allows the development of fluent speech (Seewald & Tharpe, 2011). One of the major problems faced by a child who is in the stage of learning language is the division of fluent speech into individual words. Hence, children make use of various strategies in order to understand the words within a speech sentence and once a child learns how to segment words; it becomes easier for the baby to learn the language.

Another concept of bootstrapping is used to reveal more from one word. A study suggested that infants who are 8 months of age quickly learn to differentiate between flows of syllables based on the sounds which occur more often than others. Babbling is another speech-related phenomenon that usually occurs between 6 to 10 months of age.

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preview essay on The Role of Rhythm and Intonation in Language Acquisition
  • Pages: 5 (1250 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Education
  • Level: Undergraduate
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