The Acquisition of Speech Rhythm by Bilingual Spanish- and English-Speaking 4- and 5-Year-Old Children Purpose In this study, the authors investigated speech rhythm acquisition by bilingual Spanish–English-speaking children, comparing their performance with functionally monolingual peers in both languages and to monolingual and bilingual adults. Method Participants included younger children (3;9 [years;months] to 4;5.15[years;months.days]), older children (4;6.18 to 5;2), and adults (over 18 ... Research Article
Research Article  |   August 01, 2007
The Acquisition of Speech Rhythm by Bilingual Spanish- and English-Speaking 4- and 5-Year-Old Children
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Ferenc Bunta
    Arizona State University, Tempe, and Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
  • David Ingram
    Arizona State University, Tempe
  • Contact author: Ferenc Bunta, Department of Communication Sciences, Temple University, 109 Weiss Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19122. E-mail: fbunta@temple.edu.
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 2007
The Acquisition of Speech Rhythm by Bilingual Spanish- and English-Speaking 4- and 5-Year-Old Children
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2007, Vol. 50, 999-1014. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/070)
History: Received October 7, 2005 , Revised July 12, 2006 , Accepted November 1, 2006
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2007, Vol. 50, 999-1014. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/070)
History: Received October 7, 2005; Revised July 12, 2006; Accepted November 1, 2006

Purpose In this study, the authors investigated speech rhythm acquisition by bilingual Spanish–English-speaking children, comparing their performance with functionally monolingual peers in both languages and to monolingual and bilingual adults.

Method Participants included younger children (3;9 [years;months] to 4;5.15[years;months.days]), older children (4;6.18 to 5;2), and adults (over 18 years). Twenty-six sentences were elicited and analyzed using the normalized vocalic and intervocalic Pairwise Variability Indices (PVIs) that express the level of variability in successive duration measurements, on the basis of E. Grabe and E. L. Low (2002) .

Results Younger bilingual children displayed distinct speech rhythm patterns for their target languages, and they deviated from their monolingual English-speaking peers. Older bilingual children also separated speech rhythm by language, and differences between older bilingual children and their monolingual peers speaking English were also found. Younger and older bilingual children differed on the vocalic PVI, but not the intervocalic PVI, providing partial support for age differences. Bilingual adults showed separation of their languages and performed similarly to their monolingual peers.

Conclusion Bilingual children show distinct speech rhythm patterns for their target languages but with some early equal timing bias that diminishes over time, on the basis of the vocalic measurements. Overall, the vocalic PVI is more robust than the intervocalic PVI, but further research is necessary.

Acknowledgments
This study was funded in large part by the Discipline-Based Scholarship in Education provided by the Spencer Foundation to the first author. We are also grateful for support provided by the Department of Speech and Hearing Science at Arizona State University. The College of Education Preschool at Arizona State University also offered generous assistance in the form of access to their facilities and helping with participant recruitment.
We also owe a debt of gratitude to the following individuals: Michael F. Dorman, Roy C. Major, Julie M. Liss, Brian A. Goldstein, Shelley Gray, Susan Sandler, Suzanne Stellino, Daniela Santome, Randi Boykoff, Amy Atkinson, Danielle Lazarus, Kellie Rolstad, Chari Woodward, and Nancy Siket. Without support from the above-named entities and individuals, this study would not have been possible.
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