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Phonological development of word-initial Korean obstruents in young Korean children*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2010

Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Washington
Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Washington
Address for correspondence: Minjung Kim, Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Washington, 1417 N.E. 42nd St. Box 354875, Seattle, WA 98105-6246. e-mail:


This study investigates the acquisition of word-initial Korean obstruents (i.e. stops, affricates and fricatives). Korean obstruents are characterized by a three-way contrast among stops and affricates (i.e. fortis, aspirated and lenis) and a two-way fricative contrast (i.e. fortis and lenis). All these obstruents are voiceless word-initially. Cross-sectional data were collected from forty Korean children aged 2 ; 6 (year;month), 3 ; 0, 3 ; 6 and 4 ; 0, and the acquisition patterns of Korean obstruents were explored based on productions of mono- and multisyllabic words. Results confirm the universal patterns: stops were acquired before affricates and fricatives. In terms of order of acquisition across different laryngeal types, lenis stops were the last to be acquired. For Korean fricatives, in contrast, the lenis category appears to be acquired earlier than the fortis category. This study proposes that this order of acquisition may be explained by articulatory complexity associated with language-specific phonetic properties.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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This study is based on the doctoral dissertation of the first author and was supported by the University of Washington Graduate School Fund. A portion of this work was presented at the Child Phonology Conference, Seattle, WA, 2007. We would like to thank the families who participated in this study.



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