Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Still not adult-like: lexical stress contrastivity in word productions of eight- to eleven-year-olds*


Lexical stress is the contrast between strong and weak syllables within words. Ballard et al. (2012) examined the amount of stress contrastivity across adjacent syllables in word productions of typically developing three- to seven-year-olds and adults. Here, eight- to eleven-year-olds are compared with the adults from Ballard et al. using acoustic measurements of relative contrast in duration, peak intensity, and peak fundamental frequency of the vowels within the initial two syllables of each word. While eight- to eleven-year-olds are closer to adult-like stress contrastivity than three- to seven-year-olds, they are not yet adult-like in terms of the intensity contrast for words beginning with a weak syllable.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Joanne Arciuli, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2000, Australia. e-mail:
Hide All

This research was supported by University of Sydney funds awarded to Joanne Arciuli. In addition, both authors were in receipt of research fellowships provided by the Australian Research Council. We thank the children who participated in this study and the research assistants who worked on the study, including Renae Nash and Natalia Henderson-Faranda.

Hide All
AllenG. & HawkinsS. (1980). Phonological rhythm: definition and development. In Yeni-Komshian G., Kavanagh J. & Ferguson C. (eds), Child phonology: production, Vol. 1, 227–56. New York: Academic Press.
ArciuliJ. (2014). Prosody and autism. In Arciuli J. & Brock J. (eds), Communication in autism, 103–22. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.
ArciuliJ. & ColomboL. (2016). An acoustic investigation of the developmental trajectory of lexical stress contrastivity in Italian. Speech Communication 80, 2233.
ArciuliJ. & CupplesL. (2004). Effects of stress typicality during spoken word recognition by native and non-native speakers: evidence from onset-gating. Memory & Cognition 32, 2130.
ArciuliJ. & CupplesL. (2006). The processing of lexical stress during visual word recognition: typicality effects and orthographic correlates. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 59, 920–48.
ArciuliJ., MonaghanP. & SevaN. (2010). Learning to assign lexical stress during reading aloud: corpus, behavioural and computational investigations. Journal of Memory and Language 63, 180–96.
BallardK. J., DjajaD., ArciuliJ., JamesD. G. & van DoornJ. (2012). Developmental trajectory for production of prosody: lexical stress contrastivity in children ages 3 to 7 years and in adults. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 55, 1822–35.
BallardK. J., RobinD. A., McCabeP. & McDonaldJ. (2010). A treatment for dysprosody in childhood apraxia of speech. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 53, 1227–45.
BoersmaP. & WeeninkD. (2010). PRAAT (Version [Computer software]. Amsterdam: Institute of Phonetic Sciences, online <>.
BohlandJ. & GuentherF. (2006). An fMRI investigation of syllable sequence production. Neuroimage 32(2), 821–41.
ChakrabortyR. & GoffmanL. (2011). Production of lexical stress in non-native speakers of American English: kinematic correlates of stress and transfer. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 54, 821–35.
DavisB. L., MacNeilageP. F., MatyearC. L. & PowellJ. K. (2000). Prosodic correlates of stress in babbling: an acoustical study. Child Development 71, 1258–70.
DePaolisR. A., VihmanM. M. & KunnariS. (2008). Prosody in production at the onset of word use: a cross-linguistic study. Journal of Phonetics 36, 406–26.
FieldJ. (2005). Intelligibility and the listener: the role of lexical stress. TESOL Quarterly 39, 399424.
FrankY., BergmanM. & TobinY. (1987). Stress and intonation in the speech of hearing impaired Hebrew-speaking children. Language and Speech 30, 339–55.
GoffmanL., HeislerL. & ChakrabortyR. (2006). Mapping of prosodic structure onto words and phrases in children's and adults’ speech production. Language and Cognitive Processes 21, 2547.
GrabeE. & LowE. (2002). Durational variability in speech and the rhythm class hypothesis. In Warner N. & Gussenhoven C. (eds), Papers in laboratory phonology 7, 515–64. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
GuentherF. H. (1995). Speech sound acquisition, coarticulation, and rate effects in a neural network model of speech production. Psychological Review 102, 594621.
GuentherF. H. & VladusichT. (2012). A neural theory of speech acquisition and production. Journal of Neurolinguistics 25, 408–22.
HazanV. & BarrettR. (2000). The development of phonemic categorization in children aged 6–12 years. Journal of Phonetics 28, 377–96.
JarmulowiczL. D. (2002). English derivational suffix frequency and children's stress judgements. Brain and Language 81, 192204.
KehoeM. M. (2001). Prosodic patterns in children's multisyllabic word productions. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools 32, 284–94.
KehoeM. M., Stoel-GammonC. & BuderE. (1995). Acoustic correlates of stress in young children's speech. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 38, 338–50.
KlopfensteinM. (2009). Interaction between prosody and intelligibility. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 11, 326–31.
KochanskiG., GrabeE., ColemanJ. & RosnerB. (2005). Loudness predicts prominence: fundamental frequency lends little. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 118, 1038–54.
LeeS., PotamianosA. & NarayananS. (1999). Acoustics of children's speech: developmental changes of temporal and spectral parameters. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 105, 1455–68.
LiebermanP. (1960). Some acoustic correlates of word stress in American English. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 32, 451–4.
LowL. E., GrabeE. & NolanF. (2000). Quantitative characterizations of speech rhythm: syllable-timing in Singapore English. Language and Speech 43, 377401.
NittrouerS. (1996). Discriminability and perceptual weighting of some acoustic cues to speech perception by 3-year-olds. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 39, 278–97.
NolanF. & AsuE. (2009). The pairwise variability index and coexisting rhythms in language. Phonetica 66, 6477.
PaulR., ShribergL. D., McSweenyJ., CicchettiD., KlinA. & VolkmarF. (2005). Relations between prosodic performance and communication and socialization ratings in high functioning speakers with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 35, 861–9.
PollockK. E., BrammerD. M. & HagemanC. F. (1993). An acoustic analysis of young children's productions of word stress. Journal of Phonetics 21, 183203.
RoyP. & ChiatS. (2004). A prosodically controlled word and nonword repetition task for 2- to 4- year-olds: evidence from typically developing children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 47, 223–34.
SchwartzR., PetinouK., GoffmanL., LazowskiG. & CartuscielloC. (1996). Young children's production of syllable stress: an acoustic analysis. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 99, 3192–200.
ShportI. A. & RedfordM. A. (2014). Lexical and phrasal prominence patterns in school-aged children's speech. Journal of Child Language 41, 890912.
ShribergL. D., CampbellT. F., KarlssonH. B., BrownR. L., McSweenyJ. L. & NadlerC. J. (2003). A diagnostic marker for childhood apraxia of speech: the lexical stress ratio. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 17, 549–74.
ShribergL. D. & WidderC. J. (1990). Speech and prosody characteristics of adults with mental retardation. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 33, 627–53.
SinghL. & SinghN. C. (2008). The development of articulatory signatures in children. Developmental Science 11, 467473.
SmithA. (2006). Speech motor development: integrating muscles, movements, and linguistic units. Journal of Communication Disorders 39, 331–49.
VihmanM. M., DePaolisR. & DavisB. (1998). Is there a ‘trochaic bias’ in early word learning? Evidence from infant production in English and French. Child Development 69, 935–49.
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: 15
Total number of PDF views: 93 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 346 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 21st October 2016 - 21st October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.