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REVIEWS131 The discovery of spoken language. By Peter Jusczyk. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997. Pp. xii, 314. $32.50. Reviewed by David Ingram, University of British Columbia The purpose of this book appears in the first chapter which states it is an 'attempt to situate the findings of infant speech-perception research [henceforth ISP research] more squarely within the field of language acquisition' (3). The goal of the book deserves some immediate assessment. A review of ISP research is in itself a sufficient purpose. It is a field which has grown rapidly and now has a sufficiently large literature to merit a book length treatment. Such a review provides a discussion of the major studies and the main theoretical proposals that have been made. One would expect, however, that such a review would also achieve Jusczyk's central theme, i.e. to place the field within the study of language acquisition. Why then, does J single out this point? His discussion in Ch. 1 suggests that ISP research has been underappreciated by language acquisition researchers. To support this view, he says that textbooks in language acquisition typically give ISP only minor attention (1). The basis for this claim is questionable. For example, my own, now somewhat dated text, Ingram 1989, provides a review of ISP research which emphasizes at the onset (84) its importance for understanding later developments. ISP research has been given a major prominence at conferences and in their proceedings, e.g. Morgan & Demuth 1996, Schiefelbusch & Bricker 1981, Stark 1981, Ferguson et al. 1992. A further point concerning the purpose of the book is that it would have helped to have some indication of its potential audience, e.g. undergraduate students, graduate students in language acquisition, researchers in language acquisition, ISP researchers, psychologists, linguists, educated nonprofessionals. Its form would be highly influenced by which of these groups is being targeted. J's book attempts at times to reach all of these groups. Its catchy title, for example, suggests it might be for a broad audience such as is the case for Pinker's The language instinct (1995). The book is sufficiently technical, however, that it is more likely to appeal to those with a serious interest in language acquisition. Some material is elementary, such as the general review of speech perception in Ch. 1 where we are shown a sound spectrogram, the historical overview of language acquisition in Ch. 2, and the review of early studies in ISP research in Ch. 3 where we find an explanation of categorical perception. Subsequent chapters, however, are more technical and appear directed toward serious ISP researchers: Ch. 4 provides a detailed review of recent ISP research with a focus on native sound acquisition; Ch. 5 addresses processing issues, e.g. attention and memory, and the nature of the infant's representations; Ch. 6 assesses prosodie bootstrapping, i.e. the notion that the child uses prosodie information to determine grammatical features; Ch. 7 deals with speech production, linking babbling to word production; and Ch. 8 concludes with J's own model of how infants segment words in fluent speech. The book is also a very personal review of the field. Most of Chs. 3-6 cover J's own work in the field. Ch. 3 assesses what J refers to as the earlier studies in the field of ISP research. The issue of early vs. late is defined broadly in that some recent studies are cited as well as earlier ones. The real purpose is to review the major findings on the first research questions raised. Three such questions are discussed: (1) Do infants have the ability to discriminate all human speech sounds? (2) Do infants have the ability to normalize speech (i.e. adjust for individual speakers)? (3) Are infants bom with species specific perceptual mechanisms? J's conclusions on these questions are yes to the first two and probably no to the third. The positive answer to the first question is by and large supported by data, though not completely so. J mentions research by Eilers and her colleagues (e.g. Eilers 1977) that shows infants do not discriminate fricatives as well as they do some other sounds; then he...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 131-135
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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