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    MACKEN, MARLYS A. 1980. Child Phonology.


The acquisition of the voicing contrast in English: a study of voice onset time in word-initial stop consonants*

  • Marlys A. Macken (a1) and David Barton (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 February 1980

This paper reports on a longitudinal study of the acquisition of the voicing contrast in American English word-initial stop consonants, as measured by voice onset time. Four monolingual children were recorded at two-week intervals, beginning when the children were about 1; 6. Data provide evidence for three general stages: (1) the child has no contrast; (2) the child has a contrast but one that falls within the adult perceptual boundaries of one (usually voiced) phoneme and thus is presumably not perceptible to adults; and (3) the child has a contrast that resembles the adult contrast. The rate and nature of the developmental process are discussed in relation to two competing models for phonological acquisition and two hypotheses regarding the skills being learned.

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R. Brown (1973). A first language: the early stages. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

L. Lisker & A. S. Abramson (1964). A cross-language study of voicing in initial stops: acoustical measurements. Word 20. 384422.

M. A. Macken (1978). Permitted complexity in phonological development: one child's acquisition of Spanish consonants. Lingua 44. 219–53.

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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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