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Is prosodic production driven by lexical development? Longitudinal evidence from babble and words*


This study investigated the relation between lexical development and the production of prosodic prominence in disyllabic babble and words. Monthly recordings from nine typically developing Belgian-Dutch-speaking infants were analyzed from the onset of babbling until a cumulative vocabulary of 200 words was reached. The differentiation between the two syllables of isolated disyllabic utterances was computed for f0, intensity, and duration measurements. Results showed that the ambient trochaic pattern emerged in babble, but became enhanced in words. Words showed more prosodic differentiation in terms of f0 and intensity and a more even duration ratio. Age or vocabulary size did not predict the expansion of f0 or intensity in words, whereas vocabulary size was related to the production of more even-timed syllables. The findings are discussed in terms of lexicalist accounts of phonetic development and a potential phonetic highlighting function of first words.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Ilke De Clerck, University of Antwerp, Department of Linguistics, CLiPS, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium. tel: +3232655239; e-mail:
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Ilke De Clerck and Michèle Pettinato contributed equally to the paper. This research was funded by a PhD Fellowship grant of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) and a BOF-DOCPRO project (ID 28259) from the Research Council of the University of Antwerp. Our special thanks go to Sonia Granlund for editing the manuscript, to the families and infants that participated in the study, and to K. Schauwers, I. Molemans, R. van den Berg, and L. Van Severen for collecting the Clips Child Language Corpus.

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Journal of Child Language
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