Jellybeans ... or jelly, beans...? 5-6-year-olds can identify the prosody of compounds but not lists

Nan Xu Rattanasone*, Ivan Yuen, Rebecca Holt, Katherine Demuth

*Corresponding author for this work

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Learning to use word versus phrase level prosody to identify compounds from lists is thought to be a protracted process, only acquired by 11 years (Vogel & Raimy, 2002). However, a recent study has shown that 5-year-olds can use prosodic cues other than stress for these two structures in production, at least for early-acquired noun-noun compounds (Yuen et al.2021). This raises the question of whether children this age can also use naturally-produced prosody to identify noun-noun compounds from their list forms in comprehension. The results show that 5-6-year-olds (N = 28) can only identify compounds. Unlike adults, children as a group could not use boundary cues to identify lists and were significantly slower in their processing compared to adults. This suggests that the acquisition of word level prosody may precede the acquisition of phrase level prosody, i.e., some higher-level aspects of phrasal prosody may take longer to acquire.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)602-614
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Child Language
Issue number3
Early online date20 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • compound prosody
  • prosodic boundary
  • comprehension
  • eye-tracking
  • child language acquisition


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