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Open AccessArticle

Infants Segment Words from Songs—An EEG Study

by Tineke M. Snijders 1,2,*,†, Titia Benders 3,*,† and Paula Fikkert 2,4
Language Development Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, 6500 Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, 6500 Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University, North Ryde 2109, Australia
Centre for Language Studies, Radboud University, 6500 Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(1), 39;
Received: 25 November 2019 / Revised: 25 December 2019 / Accepted: 6 January 2020 / Published: 9 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in the Neurocognition of Music and Language)
Children’s songs are omnipresent and highly attractive stimuli in infants’ input. Previous work suggests that infants process linguistic–phonetic information from simplified sung melodies. The present study investigated whether infants learn words from ecologically valid children’s songs. Testing 40 Dutch-learning 10-month-olds in a familiarization-then-test electroencephalography (EEG) paradigm, this study asked whether infants can segment repeated target words embedded in songs during familiarization and subsequently recognize those words in continuous speech in the test phase. To replicate previous speech work and compare segmentation across modalities, infants participated in both song and speech sessions. Results showed a positive event-related potential (ERP) familiarity effect to the final compared to the first target occurrences during both song and speech familiarization. No evidence was found for word recognition in the test phase following either song or speech. Comparisons across the stimuli of the present and a comparable previous study suggested that acoustic prominence and speech rate may have contributed to the polarity of the ERP familiarity effect and its absence in the test phase. Overall, the present study provides evidence that 10-month-old infants can segment words embedded in songs, and it raises questions about the acoustic and other factors that enable or hinder infant word segmentation from songs and speech. View Full-Text
Keywords: word segmentation; infant; speech; song; EEG; ERP; familiarity; recognition; polarity word segmentation; infant; speech; song; EEG; ERP; familiarity; recognition; polarity
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Snijders, T.M.; Benders, T.; Fikkert, P. Infants Segment Words from Songs—An EEG Study. Brain Sci. 2020, 10, 39.

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