Skip to main content

Non-adjacent consonant sequence patterns in English target words during the first-word period*


The goal of this study was to investigate non-adjacent consonant sequence patterns in target words during the first-word period in infants learning American English. In the spontaneous speech of eighteen participants, target words with a Consonant–Vowel–Consonant (C1VC2) shape were analyzed. Target words were grouped into nine types, categorized by place of articulation (labial, coronal, dorsal) of initial and final consonants (e.g. mom, labial–labial; mat, labial–coronal; dog, coronal–dorsal). The results indicated that some consonant sequences occurred much more frequently than others in early target words. The two most frequent types were coronal–coronal (e.g. dad) and labial–coronal (e.g. mat). The least frequent type was dorsal–dorsal (e.g. cake). These patterns are consistent with phonotactic characteristics of English and infants' production capacities reported in previous studies. This study demonstrates that infants' expressive vocabularies reflect both ambient language characteristics and their own production capacities, at least for consonant sequences in C1VC2 word forms.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Katsura Aoyama, University of North Texas, 1155 Union Circle #305010, Denton, Texas 76203, United States. e-mail:
Hide All

The data in the study were collected with support from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development R-01 HD27733-03 to the second author. The authors thank Kelsey Robin for analyzing the individual data, and Tina Boike for providing editorial assistance. Thanks also for the participation of these infants and their families, without whom this work could not have happened.

Hide All
Aoyama, K., Peters, A. M. & Winchester, K. S. (2010). Phonological changes during the transition from one-word to productive word combination. Journal of Child Language 37, 145–57.
Boysson-Bardies, B. de & Vihman, M. M. (1991). Adaptation to language: evidence from babbling and first words in four languages. Language 67, 297319.
Boysson-Bardies, B. de, Vihman, M. M., Roug-Hellichius, L., Durand, C., Landberg, I. & Arao, F. (1992). Material evidence of infant selection from target language: a cross-linguistic phonetic study. In Ferguson, C. A., Menn, L. & Stoel-Gammon, C. (eds), Phonological development: models, research, implications, 369–93. Timonium, MD: York.
Davis, B. L. & MacNeilage, P. F. (1995). The articulatory basis of babbling. Journal of Speech & Hearing Research 38, 1199–211.
Davis, B. L., MacNeilage, P. F. & Matyear, C. L. (2002). Acquisition of serial complexity in speech production: a comparison of phonetic and phonological approaches to first word production. Phonetica 59, 75107.
Delattre, P. (1965). Comparing the phonetic features of English, German, Spanish, and French: an interim report. Heidelberg: Julian Gross Verlag.
Fenson, L., Dale, P. S., Reznick, J. S., Thal, D., Bates, E., Hartung, J. P., Pethick, S. & Reilly, J. S. (1993). The MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories: user's guide and technical manual. San Diego, CA: Singular.
Gonzalez-Gomez, N., Hayashi, A., Tsuji, S., Mazuka, R. & Nazzi, T. (2014). The role of the input on the development of the LC bias: a cross-linguistic comparison. Cognition 132, 301–11.
Gonzalez-Gomez, N. & Nazzi, T. (2012). Acquisition of nonadjacent phonological dependencies in the native language during the first year of life. Infancy 17, 498524.
Gonzalez-Gomez, N. & Nazzi, T. (2013). Effects of prior phonotactic knowledge on infant word segmentation: the case of non-adjacent dependencies. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 56, 840–9.
Gonzalez-Gomez, N., Poltrock, S. & Nazzi, T. (2013). A ‘Bat’ is easier to learn than a ‘Tab’: effects of relative phonotactic frequency on infant word learning. PloS One 8, e59601.
Graf Estes, K., Edwards, J. & Saffran, J. R. (2011). Phonotactic constraints on infant word learning. Infancy 16, 180–97.
Guidubaldi, J., Newborg, J., Stock, J. R., Svinicki, J. & Wneck, L. (1984). Batelle Developmental Inventory. Allen, TX: DLM Teaching Resources.
Ingram, D. (1974). Fronting in child phonology. Journal of Child Language 1, 233–41.
Jasuta, S. G. S. (1987). The phonology of the first fifty words: phonological process and homonymy. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Austin.
Keating, P. (1991). Coronal places of articulation. In Paradis, C. & Prunet, J. (eds), The special status of coronals: internal and external evidence, 2948. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Kim, N. & Davis, B. L. (2015). A phonetic approach to consonant repetition in early words. Infant Behavior and Development 40, 193203.
Ladefoged, P. & Johnson, K. (2015). A course in phonetics (7th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Ladefoged, P. & Maddieson, I. (1996). The sounds of the world's languages. Oxford: Blackwell.
MacNeilage, P. F. & Davis, B. L. (2000). Evolution of speech: the relation between ontogeny and phylogeny. In Knight, C., Studdert Kennedy, M. & Hurford, J. R. (eds), The evolutionary emergence of language: social function and the origins of linguistic form, 146–60. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
MacNeilage, P. F., Davis, B. L., Kinney, A. & Matyear, C. L. (1999). Origin of serial-output complexity in infants and in language. Psychological Science 10, 459–60.
MacNeilage, P. F., Davis, B. L., Kinney, A. & Matyear, C. L. (2000). The motor core of speech: a comparison of serial organization patterns in infants and languages. Child Development 71, 153–63.
MacNeilage, P. F., Davis, B. L. & Matyear, C. L. (1997). Babbling and first words: phonetic similarities and differences. Speech Communication 22, 269–77.
MacWhinney, B. (2000). The CHILDES Project: tools for analyzing talk, vol. I: transcription format and programs (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Maekawa, J. & Storkel, H. L. (2006). Individual differences in the influence of phonological characteristics on expressive vocabulary development by young children. Journal of Child Language 33, 439–59.
McCune, L. & Vihman, M. M. (2001). Early phonetic and lexical development: a productivity approach. Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research 44, 670–84.
Oller, D. K. (2000). The emergence of the speech capacity. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Rochet-Capellan, A. & Schwartz, J. (2007). An articulatory basis for the labial-to-coronal effect: /pata/ seems a more stable articulatory pattern than /tapa/. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 121, 3740–54.
Snow, D. (1994). Phrase-final syllable lengthening and intonation in early child speech. Journal of Speech & Hearing Research 37, 831–40.
Stoel-Gammon, C. (1985). Phonetic inventories, 15–24 months: a longitudinal study. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 28, 505–12.
Stoel-Gammon, C. (1998). Sound and words in early language acquisition: the relationship between lexical and phonological development. In Paul, R. (ed.), Exploring the speech–language connection, 2552. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks.
Stoel-Gammon, C. (2011). Relationships between lexical and phonological development in young children. Journal of Child Language 38, 134.
Storkel, H. L. (2009). Developmental differences in the effects of phonological, lexical and semantic variables on word learning by infants. Journal of Child Language 36, 291321.
Teixeira, E. R. & Davis, B. L. (2002). Early sound patterns in the speech of two Brazilian Portuguese speakers. Language and Speech 45, 179204.
Templin, M. C. (1957). Certain language skills in children: their development and interrelationships. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Tsuji, S., Gonzalez-Gomez, N., Medina, V., Nazzi, T. & Mazuka, R. (2012). The labial–coronal effect revisited: Japanese adults say pata, but hear tapa . Cognition 125, 413–28.
Vihman, M. & Croft, W. (2007). Phonological development: toward a ‘radical’ templatic phonology. Linguistics 45, 683725.
Vihman, M. M. & Greenlee, M. (1987). Individual differences in phonological development: ages one and three years. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 30, 503–21.
Vihman, M. M., Macken, M. A., Miller, R., Simmons, H. & Miller, J. (1985). From babbling to speech: a re-assessment of the continuity issue. Language 61, 397445.
Vihman, M. M. & McCune, L. (1994). When is a word a word? Journal of Child Language 21, 517–42.
Zamuner, T. S. (2009). Phonotactic probabilities at the onset of language development: speech production and word position. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 52, 4960.
Zamuner, T. S., Gerken, L. & Hammond, M. (2004). Phonotactic probabilities in young children's speech production. Journal of Child Language 31, 515–36.
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? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 21
Total number of PDF views: 100 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 377 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.