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The acquisition of phonology by Cantonese-speaking children*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008

Lydia K. H. So
University of Hong Kong
Barbara J. Dodd*
University of Queensland
Department of Speech and Hearing, University of Queensland, St Lucia 4072, Australia.


Little is known about the acquisition of phonology by children learning Cantonese as their first language. This paper describes the phoneme repertoires and phonological error patterns used by 268 Cantonese-speaking children aged 2;0 to 6;0, as well as a longitudinal study of tone acquisition by four children aged 1;2 to 2;0. Children had mastered the contrastive use of tones and vowels by two years. While the order of acquisition of consonants was similar to that reported for English, the rate of acquisition was more rapid. The developmental error patterns used by more than 10% of children are also reported as common in other languages. However, specific rules associated with Cantonese phonology were also identified. Few phonological errors were made after age four. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that the ambient language influences the implementation of universal tendencies in phonological acquisition.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995

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We are grateful to the children for their co-operation, and M. Hui and C. Chan for their enthusiasm and speed. The CRCG, University of Hong Kong and the Australian NHMRC provided financial assistance.



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