Skip to main content

Acoustic development of vowel production in native Mandarin-speaking children

  • Jing Yang (a1) and Robert A. Fox (a2)

The present study aims to document the developmental profile of static and dynamic acoustic features of vowel productions in monolingual Mandarin-speaking children aged between three and six years in comparison to adults. Twenty-nine monolingual Mandarin children and 12 native Mandarin adults were recorded producing ten Mandarin disyllabic words containing five monophthongal vowel phonemes /a i u y ɤ/. F1 and F2 values were measured at five equidistant temporal locations (the 20–35–50–65–80% points of the vowel's duration) and normalized. Scatter plots showed clear separations between vowel categories although the size of individual vowel categories exhibited a decreasing trend as the age increased. This indicates that speakers as young as three years old could separate these five Mandarin vowels in the acoustic space but they were still refining the acoustic properties of their vowel production as they matured. Although the tested vowels were monophthongs, they were still characterized by distinctive formant movement patterns. Mandarin children generally demonstrated formant movement patterns comparable to those of adult speakers. However, children still showed positional variation and differed from adults in the magnitudes of spectral change for certain vowels. This indicates that vowel development is a long-term process which extends beyond three years of age.

Hide All
Adank, Patti, Smits, Roel & van Hout, Roeland. 2004. A comparison of vowel normalization procedures for language variation research. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 116, 30993107.
Assmann, Peter F., Nearey, Terrance M. & Bharadwaj, Sneha V.. 2013. Development patterns in children's speech: Patterns of spectral change in vowels. In Morrison, Geoffrey Stewart & Assmann, Peter F. (eds.), Vowel inherent spectral change, 199230. Berlin: Springer.
Barton, David & Macken, Marlys A.. 1980. An instrumental analysis of the voicing contrast in word-initial stops in the speech of four-year-old English-speaking children. Language and Speech 23, 159169.
Busby, Peter A. & Plant, G. L.. 1995. Formant frequency values of vowels produced by preadolescent boys and girls. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 97, 26032606.
Chang, Chiung-Yun. 2010. Dialect differences in the production and perception of Mandarin Chinese tones. Ph.D. dissertation. The Ohio State University.
Chung, Hyunju, Kong, Eun Jong, Edwards, Jan, Weismer, Gary, Fourakis, Marios & Hwang, Youngdeok. 2012. Cross-linguistic studies of children's and adults’ vowel spaces. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 131, 442454.
Davis, Barbara L. & MacNeilage, Peter F.. 1990. Acquisition of correct vowel production: A quantitative case study. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 33, 1627.
Edwards, Jan & Beckman, Mary E.. 2008. Methodological questions in studying consonant acquisition. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics 22, 937956.
Fox, Robert A. & Jacewicz, Ewa. 2009. Cross-dialectal variation in formant dynamics of American English vowels. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 126, 26032618.
Fox, Robert A. & Jacewicz, Ewa. 2010. Dialect and generational differences in vowel space areas. In Botinis, Antonis (ed.), Proceedings of ISCA Tutorial and Research Workshop on Experimental Linguistics, 3740. ISCA and the University of Athens, Greece.
Gilbert, Harvey R., Robb, Michael P. & Chen, Yang. 1997. Formant frequency development: 15 to 36 months. Journal of Voice 11(3), 260266.
Green, Jordan R., Moore, Christopher A. & Reilly, Kevin J.. 2002. The sequential development of jaw and lip control for speech. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 45, 6679.
Hare, Gayle J. 1983. Development at 2 years. In Irwin, & Wong, (eds.), 55–88.
Harrington, Jonathan & Cassidy, Stephen. 1994. Dynamic and target theories of vowel classification: Evidence from monophthongs and diphthongs in Australian English. Language and Speech 37, 357373.
Higgins, Carolyn M. & Hodge, Megan M.. 2001. F2/F1 vowel quadrilateral area in young children with and without dysarthria. Canadian Acoustics 29, 6668.
Hillenbrand, James, Getty, Laura A., Clark, Michael J. & Wheeler, Kimberlee. 1995. Acoustic characteristics of American English vowels. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 97(5), 30993111.
Hoole, Philip & Hu, Fang. 2004. Tone–vowel interaction in standard Chinese. Presented at the International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages: With Emphasis on Tone Languages.
Irwin, John V. & Wong, Seok P. (eds.). 1983. Phonological development in children: 18–72 months. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
Jacewicz, Ewa, Fox, Robert A. & Salmons, Joseph. 2011a. Cross-generational vowel change in American English. Language Variation and Change 23(1), 4586.
Jacewicz, Ewa, Fox, Robert A. & Salmons, Joseph. 2011b. Regional dialect variation in the vowel systems of typically developing children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 54, 448470.
Jacewicz, Ewa, Fox, Robert A. & Salmons, Joseph. 2011c. Vowel change across three age groups of speakers in three regional varieties of American English. Journal of Phonetics 39, 683693.
Jacewicz, Ewa, Salmons, Joseph & Fox, Robert A.. 2009. Prosodic conditioning, vowel dynamics and sound change. In Féry, Caroline, Kügler, Frank & van de Vijver, Ruben (eds.), Variation and gradience in phonetics and phonology, 99124. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Jeng, Heng-hsiung. 1979. The acquisition of Chinese phonology in relation to Jakobson's laws of irreversible solidarity. Proceedings of 9th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS IX), vol. 2, 155161. Stockholm: Institute of Phonetics.
Kent, Raymond D. & Forner, Linda L.. 1980. Speech segment durations in sentence recitations by children and adults. Journal of Phonetics 8, 157168.
Kent, Raymond D. & Murray, Ann D.. 1982. Acoustic features of infant vocalic utterances at 3, 6, and 9 months. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 72(2), 353365.
Kent, Raymond D. & Read, Charles. 1992. The acoustic analysis of speech. San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing.
Kuhl, Patricia K. & Meltzoff, Andrew N.. 1996. Infant vocalizations in response to speech: Vocal imitation and development change. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 100(4), 24252438.
Lee, Sungbok, Potamianos, Alexandros & Narayanan, Shrikanth. 1999. Acoustics of children's speech: Developmental changes of temporal and spectral parameters. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 105, 14551468.
Lee-Kim, Sang-Im. 2014. Revisiting Mandarin ‘apical vowels’: An articulatory and acoustic study. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 44(3), 261282.
Lin, Maocan. 1988. Putonghua shengdiao de shengxue texing he zhijue zhengzhao [The acoustic characteristics and perceptual cues of tones in Standard Chinese]. Zhongguo Yuwen [Chinese Language and Writing] 204, 182193.
Liu, Huei-Mei., Cao, Feng-Ming & Kuhl, Patricia L.. 2005. The effect of reduced vowel working space on speech intelligibility in Mandarin-speaking young adults with cerebral palsy. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 117, 38793889.
Lobanov, Boris M. 1971. Classification of Russian vowels spoken by different listeners. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 49, 606608.
Milenkovic, Paul. 2003. TF32 software program. University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Nearey, Terrance M. 2013. Vowel inherent spectral change in the vowels of North American English. In Morrison, Geoffrey Stewart & Assmann, Peter F. (eds.), Vowel inherent spectral change. Berlin: Springer.
Nearey, Terrance M. & Assmann, Peter F.. 1986. Modeling the role of inherent spectral change in vowel identification. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 80, 12971308.
Nittrouer, Susan. 1993. The emergence of mature gestural patterns is not uniform: Evidence from an acoustic study. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 36, 959972.
Otomo, Kiyoshi & Stoel-Gammon, Carol. 1992. The acquisition of unrounded vowels in English. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 35, 604616.
Paschall, Leslie. 1983. Development at 18 months. In Irwin, & Wong, (eds.), 27–54.
Sharkey, Susan G. & Folkins, John W.. 1985. Variability of lip and jaw movements in children and adults: Implications for the development of speech motor control. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 28, 815.
Shi, Feng & Wen, Baoying. 2007. Hanyu Putonghua ertong de yuanyin fazhan [Vowel development of Mandarin-speaking children]. Zhongguo Yuwen [Chinese language and Writing] 5, 444454.
Si, Yuying. 2006. Putonghua ertong yuyin xide de ge'an yanjiug [The acquisition of Puthonghua Phonology: A case study]. Dangdai Yuyanxue [Contemporary Linguistics] 1, 9394.
Smith, Anne. 2006. Speech motor development: Integrating muscles, movements and linguistic units. Journal of Communication Disorders 39, 331349.
Smith, Anne & Zelaznik, Howard N.. 2004. The development of functional synergies for speech motor coordination in childhood and adolescence. Developmental Psychobiology 45, 2233.
Smith, Bruce L. 1978. Temporal aspects of English speech production: A developmental perspective. Journal of Phonetics 6, 3767.
Smith, Bruce L. 1991. Relationships between duration and temporal variability in children's speech. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 91, 21652174.
Smith, Bruce L. & Gartenberg, Terri E.. 1984. Initial observations concerning developmental characteristics of labio‐mandibular kinematics. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 75(5), 15991605.
Smith, Neilson Voyne. 1973. The acquisition of phonology. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Stoel-Gammon, Carol & Herrington, Paula Beckett. 1990. Vowel systems of normally developing and phonologically disordered children. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 4(2), 145160.
Templin, Mildred C. 1957. Certain language skills in children: Their development and interrelationships (Institute of Child Welfare Monographs 26). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Thomas, Erik R. & Kendall, Tyler. 2007. NORM: The vowel normalization and plotting suite., accessed on 9 March 2013.
Vihman, Marilyn May. 1993. Variable paths to early word production. Journal of Phonetics 21, 6182.
Vihman, Marilyn May, Ferguson, Charles A. & Elbert, Mary. 1986. Phonological development from babbling to speech: Common tendencies and individual differences. Applied Psycholinguistics 7, 340.
Vorperian, Houri K. & Kent, Raymond D.. 2007. Vowel acoustic space development in children: A synthesis of acoustic and anatomic data. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 50(6), 15101545.
Walsh, Bridget & Smith, Anne. 2002. Articulatory movements in adolescents: Evidence for protracted development of speech motor control processes. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 45, 11191133.
Waterson, Natalie. 1971. Child phonology: A prosodic view. Journal of Linguistics 7, 179211.
Weismer, Gary, Jeng, J-Y., Laures, Jacqueline S., Kent, Raymond D. & Kent, Jane F.. 2001. Acoustic and intelligibility characteristics of sentence production in neurogenic speech disorders. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica 53, 118.
Wellman, Beth L., Case, Ida Mae, Mengert, Ida Gaarder & Bradbury, Dorothy Edith. 1931. Speech sounds of young children, In Stoddard, G. D. (ed.), University of Iowa Studies in Child Welfare 5(2), 780. Iowa City, IO: University of Iowa Press.
Xu, Li., Tsai, Yuhjung & Pfingst, Bryan E.. 2002. Features of stimulation affecting tonal-speech perception: Implications for cochlear prostheses. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 112(1), 247258.
Yuan, Jiahong. 2013. The spectral dynamics of vowels in Mandarin Chinese. Proceedings of the 14th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association (INTERSPEECH 2013), 1193–1197.
Zhu, Hua & Dodd, Barbara. 2000. The phonological acquisition of Putonghua (Modern Standard Chinese). Journal of Child Language 27(1), 342.
Zhou, Ning & Xu, Li. 2008. Lexical tone recognition with spectrally mismatched envelopes. Hearing Research 246, 3643.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the International Phonetic Association
  • ISSN: 0025-1003
  • EISSN: 1475-3502
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-international-phonetic-association
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 34 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 184 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 12th July 2017 - 21st March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.