The Discovery of Spoken Language





Speech carries information about the structure and organization of language. Yet, speech is normally produced as a continuous stream without clearly demarcated boundaries between words. A fundamental problem for any language learner is to segment speech in a way that correctly identifies the words of the language. This is a crucial step toward building a lexicon and learning about the grammatical organization of the language.

The Discovery of Spoken Language marks one of the first efforts to integrate the field of infant speech perception research into the general study of language acquisition. It fills in a key part of the acquisition story by providing an extensive review of research on the acquisition of language during the first year of life, focusing primarily on how normally developing infants learn the organization of native language sound patterns.

Peter Jusczyk examines the initial capacities that infants possess for discriminating and categorizing speech sounds and how these capacities evolve as infants gain experience with native language input. Considerable attention is paid to ways speech perception capacities develop so that listeners can recognize words in fluent speech. Jusczyk also looks at how infants' growing knowledge of native language sound patterns may facilitate the acquisition of other aspects of language organization and discusses the relationship between the learner's developing capacities for perceiving and producing speech. An appendix reviews the test procedures used to evaluate infant speech perception capacities.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262100588 328 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262600361 328 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • The book presents an excellent overview of the field and will certainly serve as an important source of reference for speech perception and language acquisition researchers. At the same time, it contains many fascinating theoretical insights into the operation of basic principles of development that have the potential to inspire future research within and beyond the area of speech perception.

    Vera Kempe

    Contemporary Psychology


  • The Discovery of Spoken Language addresses all the main issues in current experimental studies of infant speech and language development. This is the first attempt to review and coordinate the findings of an important area of study often neglected by researchers in the broader, general field of language acquisition.

    Michael Studdert-Kennedy

    Haskins Laboratories

  • This is an interesting, provocative, and necessary book. It is comprehensive, providing the reader with a very nearly complete view of the infant's earliest encounters with language during the first year of life. Most importantly, it describes how these encounters support (bootstrap) the beginnings of language acquisition—a topic that most other writers in the field have either ignored or given only minimal attention. To my knowledge, there are no other books or monographs that even approach the thoroughness and thoughtfulness that Jusczyk brings to this topic. It should be read by all who are interested in the acquisition of language or the nature of early human development.

    Peter D. Eimas

    Brown University

  • This is a remarkable and important book. Jusczyk has composed a fine portrait of the infant listener and the many attempts to describe the beginnings of language. The scope is comprehensive, and he has told the tale with rare style.

    Robert E. Remez

    Professor of Psychology, Barnard College

  • The discovery of spoken language beings at birth and advances at an awe-inspiring rate throughout the first year of a child's life. By the end of that first year children have acquired knowledge of their native language's phonological system, and of the characteristic shape of spoken words of their language; they can extract new works from continuous speech input and recognize the many words they already know even when they occur in new contexts; and all this perhaps before they have yet uttered a single word themselves. The discovery of these developmental achievements has occurred in a relatively short period of exciting research advances in infant speech perception research; The Discovery of Spoken Language charts these advances and makes the whole picture for the first time open to discovery by readers outside this research area.

    Anne Cutler

    Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics, The Netherlands

  • A comprehensive overview of important research bearing on essential questions concerning the bases of linguistic performance. Jusczyk's own studies remind us how masterful application of experimental methods can yield empirical data that impose strong constraints on cognitive theorizing. This research has broad theoretical implications that are just beginning to be understood. The phenomena summarized here should attract the rapt attention of cognitive scientists interested in the biological, experiential, and computational bases of language.

    Mark S. Seidenberg

    Neuroscience Program, University of Southern California

  • Jusczyk's focus of what is happening in the realm of language perception is an important and much-needed contribution to our understanding of the process of language acquisition. Information about the foundations being developed during this early period provides a crucial perspective, which was unavailable until recently, on the more easily observable processes of language development which begin around the middle of the second year. Nobody is better qualified to pull together this work than Peter Jusczyk, who has been both a pioneer and a leading researcher in the study of early perception.

    Ann Peters

    Professor of Linguistics, University of Hawai'i

  • This is a remarkable and important book. Jusczyk has composed a fine portrait of the infant listener and the many attempts to describe the beginnings of language. The scope is comprehensive, and he has told the tale with rare style.

    Robert E. Remez

    Professor of Psychology, Barnard College