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Subsegmental Representation in Child Speech Production: Structured Variability of Stop Consonant Voice Onset Time in American English and Cantonese

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2022

Eleanor CHODROFF*
Affiliation:
University of York, Department of Language and Linguistic Science, York, UK
Leah BRADSHAW
Affiliation:
University of Zurich, Institute of Computational Linguistics, Zurich, Switzerland
Vivian LIVESAY
Affiliation:
Mount Holyoke College, Department of Psychology and Education, South Hadley, Massachusetts, USA
*
*Corresponding author. Eleanor Chodroff, University of York, Department of Language and Linguistic Science, York, UK, YO10 5DD. E-mail: eleanor.chodroff@york.ac.uk

Abstract

Voice onset time (VOT) of aspirated stop consonants is marked by variability and systematicity in adult speech production. The present study investigated variability and systematicity of voiceless aspirated stop VOT from 161 two- to five-year-old talkers of American English and Cantonese. Overall, many aspects of child VOT productions parallel adult patterns, the analysis of which can help inform our understanding of early speech production. For instance, VOT means were comparable between children and adults, despite greater variability. Further, across children in both languages, talker-specific VOT means were strongly correlated between [th] and [kh]. This correlation may reflect a constraint of “target uniformity” that minimizes variation in the phonetic realization of a shared distinctive feature. Therefore findings suggest that target uniformity is not merely a product of a mature grammar, but may instead shape speech production representations in children as young as two years of age.

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Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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