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Phonotactic probabilities in young children's speech production


This research explores the role of phonotactic probability in two-year-olds' production of coda consonants. Twenty-nine children were asked to repeat CVC non-words that were used as labels for pictures of imaginary animals. The CVC non-words were controlled for their phonotactic probabilities, neighbourhood densities, word-likelihood ratings, and contained the identical coda across low and high phonotactic probability pairs. This allowed for comparisons of children's productions of the same coda consonant in low and high phonotactic probability environments. Children were significantly more likely to produce the same coda in high phonotactic probability non-words than in low phonotactic probability non-words. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that phonotactic probability is a predictor of coda production in English. Moreover, this finding provides further evidence for the role of the input and distribution of sound patterns in the ambient language as a basis for phonological acquisition.

Corresponding author
Tania S. Zamuner, University of Nijmegen, IWTS, P.O. Box 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands. e-mail:
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This research was supported by NSERC PGSB awarded to T. S. Zamuner and by NSF grant #SBR 969607 awarded to LouAnn Gerken. Thanks to assistance and comments from Paula Fikkert, Paul Luce, Diane Ohala, Maryam Sadrzadeh, Joe Pater, Joseph Stemberger, and two anonymous reviewers.
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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
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