Skip to main content

Development of stop consonants in three- to six-year-old Mandarin-speaking children

  • Jing YANG (a1)

This study compared the temporal measurements of stop consonants in 29 three- to six-year-old Mandarin-speaking children and 12 Mandarin-speaking adults. Each participant produced 18 Mandarin disyllabic words which contained six stop consonants /p, pʰ, t, tʰ, k, kʰ/ each followed by three vowels /a, i, u/ at the word-initial position in the first syllable. The temporal measurements of VOT, overall burst duration, average duration per burst, number of bursts, and VOT-lag duration were obtained. Although adult-like short-lag VOTs were achieved in all children, the long-lag VOTs were widespread in the younger group and gradually developed to a concentrated distribution in the older children. Further analysis of the burst and VOT-lag revealed that these children tended to produce shorter average duration per burst and longer VOT-lag than the adults. These results indicate that children in this age range may not have developed adult-like laryngeal–oral timing pattern and airflow control for stop production.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author. E-mail:
Hide All

Jing Yang, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Central Arkansas, 201 Donaghey Ave, Conway AR 72035. tel: 501-450-5486.

Hide All
Abramson, A. S. (1977). Laryngeal timing in consonant distinctions. Phonetica, 34, 295303.
Barton, D., & Macken, M. A. (1980). An instrumental analysis of the voicing contrast in word-initial stops in the speech of four-year-old English-speaking children. Language and Speech, 23, 159–69.
Bernthal, J., Bankson, N., & Flipsen, P. (2009). Articulation and phonological disorders: speech sound disorders in children, 6th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Bond, Z. S., & Wilson, H. F. (1980). Acquisition of the voicing contrast by language-delayed and normal-speaking children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 23, 152–61.
Bradshaw, M. (1999). A crosslinguistic study of consonant-tone interaction (Doctoral dissertation, Ohio State University). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (Publication No. AAT 9941291).
Chao, K. Y., & Chen, L. M. (2008). A cross-linguistic study of voice onset time in stop consonant productions. International Journal of Computational Linguistics & Chinese Language Processing, 13(2), 215–32.
Chen, L. M., Chao, K. Y., & Peng, J. F. (2007). VOT productions of word-initial stops in Mandarin and English: a cross-language study. In Proceedings of the 19th Conference on Computational Linguistics and Speech Processing (ROCLING, 2007), retrieved from <> (last accessed 29 March 2018).
Cho, T., & Ladefoged, P. (1999). Variation and universals in VOT: evidence from 18 languages. Journal of Phonetics, 27(2), 207–29.
Davis, K. (1995). Phonetic and phonological contrasts in the acquisition of voicing: voice onset time production in Hindi and English. Journal of Child Language, 22(2), 275305.
Dodd, B., Holm, A., Hua, Z., & Crosbie, S. (2003). Phonological development: a normative study of British English-speaking children. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 17(8), 617–43.
Edwards, J., & Beckman, M. E. (2008). Methodological questions in studying consonant acquisition. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 22(12), 937–56.
Engstrand, O., & Williams, K. (1996). VOT in stop inventories and in young children's vocalizations: preliminary analyses. Speech, Music, and Hearing Quarterly Progress and Status Report, 37(2), 97–9.
Gandour, J., Petty, S. H., Dardarananda, R., Dechongkit, S., & Mukngoen, S. (1986). The acquisition of the voicing contrast in Thai: a study of voice onset time in word-initial stop consonants. Journal of Child Language, 13(3), 561–72.
Gilbert, J. H. V. (1977). A voice onset time analysis of apical stop production in 3-year-olds. Journal of Child Language, 4, 103–13.
Hitchcock, E. R., & Koenig, L. L. (2013). The effects of data reduction in determining the schedule of voicing acquisition in young children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 56(2), 441–57.
Hitchcock, E. R., & Koenig, L. L. (2015). Longitudinal observations of typical English voicing acquisition in a 2-year-old child: stability of the contrast and considerations for clinical assessment. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 29(12), 955–76.
Hua, Z., & Dodd, B. (2000). The phonological acquisition of Putonghua (modern standard Chinese). Journal of Child Language, 27(1), 342.
Imbrie, A. K. K. (2005). Acoustical study of the development of stop consonants in children (Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
Keating, P. A. (1984). Phonetic and phonological representation of stop consonant voicing. Language, 60, 286319.
Kewley-Port, D., & Preston, M. (1974). Early apical stop production: a voice onset time analysis. Journal of Phonetics, 2, 195210.
Klatt, D. H. (1975). Voice Onset Time, frication, and aspiration in word-initial consonant clusters. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 18, 686706.
Koenig, L. L. (2000). Laryngeal factors in voiceless consonant production in men, women, and 5-year-olds. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 43, 1211–28.
Koenig, L. L. (2001). Distributional characteristics of VOT in children's voiceless aspirated stops and interpretation of developmental trends. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 44, 1058–68.
Lee, S. A. S., & Iverson, G. K. (2008). Development of stop consonants in Korean. Korean Linguistics, 14(1), 2139.
Lee, S. A. S., & Iverson, G. K. (2012). Stop consonant productions of Korean–English bilingual children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 15(2), 275–87.
Lee, S. A. S., & Iverson, G. K. (2017). The emergence of phonetic categories in Korean–English bilingual children. Journal of Child Language, 44(6), 1485–515.
Li, F. (2013). The effect of speakers’ sex on voice onset time in Mandarin stops. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 133(2), EL142EL147.
Lisker, L. (1986). ‘Voicing’ in English: a catalogue of acoustic features signaling /b/ versus /p/ in trochees. Language and Speech, 29, 311.
Lisker, L., & Abramson, A. S. (1964). A cross-language study of voicing in initial stops: acoustical measurements. Word, 20, 384422.
Löfqvist, A. (1980). Interarticulator programming in stop production. Journal of Phonetics, 8, 475–90.
Löfqvist, A. (1992). Acoustic and aerodynamic effects of interarticulator timing in voiceless consonants. Language and Speech, 35, 1528.
Lowenstein, J. H., & Nittrouer, S. (2008). Patterns of acquisition of native voice onset time in English-learning children. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 124(2), 1180–91.
Macken, M. A., & Barton, D. (1980a). The acquisition of the voicing contrast in English: a study of voice onset time in word-initial stop consonants. Journal of Child Language, 7, 4174.
Macken, M. A., & Barton, D. (1980b). The acquisition of the voicing contrast in Spanish: a phonetic and phonological study of word-initial stop consonants. Journal of Child Language, 7(3), 433–58.
Maddieson, I. (1997), Phonetic universals. In Laver, J. & Hardcastle, W. J. (Eds.), The handbook of phonetic sciences (pp. 619–39), Oxford: Blackwell.
Morris, R. J., McCrea, C. R., & Herring, K. D. (2008). Voice onset time differences between adult males and females: isolated syllables. Journal of Phonetics, 36(2), 308–17.
Nittrouer, S. (1993). The emergence of mature gestural patterns is not uniform: evidence from an acoustic study. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 36(5), 959–72.
Pan, H. (1995). Longitudinal study of the acquisition of Taiwansese initial stops. Ohio State University Working Papers in Linguistics, 45, 131–59.
Preston, M., & Yeni-Komshian, G. (1967). Studies on the development of stop-consonants in children. Haskins Laboratories Status Report on Speech Research, SR11, 4952.
Preston, M. S., Yeni-Komshian, G., Stark, R. E., & Port, D. K. (1968). Developmental studies of voicing in stops. Haskins Laboratories Status Report on Speech Research, SR13/14, 181–4.
Rochet, B. L., & Fei, Y. (1991). Effect of consonant and vowel context on Mandarin Chinese VOT: production and perception. Canadian Acoustics, 19(4), 105–6.
Romeo, R., Hazan, V., & Pettinato, M. (2013). Developmental and gender-related trends of intra-talker variability in consonant production. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 134(5), 3781–92.
Smit, A. B., Hand, L., Freilinger, J. J., Bernthal, J. E., & Bird, A. (1990). The Iowa articulation norms project and its Nebraska replication. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 55(4), 779–98.
Smith, B. L. (1978). Temporal aspects of English speech production: a developmental perspective. Journal of Phonetics, 6, 3767.
So, L. K. H., & Dodd, B. J. (1995). The acquisition of phonology by Cantonese-speaking children. Journal of Child Language, 22(3), 473–95.
So, L. K. H., & Zhou, J. (2000). Putonghua Segmental Phonology Test. Nanjing: Nanjing Normal University.
Stevens, K. N. (2000). Acoustic phonetics, Vol. 30. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Templin, M. C. (1957). Certain language skills in children: their development and interrelationships. Institute of Child Welfare Monographs, 26. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Vorperian, H. K., Kent, R. D., Lindstrom, M. J., Kalina, C. M., Gentry, L. R., & Yandell, B. S. (2005). Development of vocal tract length during early childhood: a magnetic resonance imaging study. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 117(1), 338–50.
Weismer, G. (1979). Sensitivity of voice-onset-time (VOT) measures to certain segmental features in speech production. Journal of Phonetics, 7, 197204.
Wellman, B. L., Case, I. M., Mengert, I. G., & Bradbury, D. E. (1931). Speech sounds of young children. University of Iowa Studies: Child Welfare, 5(2), 82.
Whiteside, S. P., & Marshall, J. (2001). Developmental trends in voice onset time: some evidence for sex differences. Phonetica, 58(3), 196210.
Zlatin, M. A., & Koenigsknecht, R. A. (1976). Development of the voicing contrast: a comparison of voice onset time in stop perception and production. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 19, 93111.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 3
Total number of PDF views: 45 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 238 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 18th April 2018 - 20th July 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.