Identifying Prosodic Contrasts in Utterances Produced by 4-, 7-, and 11-Year-Old Children Purpose Acquisition of prosodic control appears to evolve across development with younger children relying on durational cues and older children utilizing a broader spectrum of cues including fundamental frequency, intensity, and duration. This study aimed to determine whether unfamiliar listeners could identify prosodic contrasts produced by 4-, 7-, and 11-year-olds ... Research Article
Research Article  |   June 01, 2009
Identifying Prosodic Contrasts in Utterances Produced by 4-, 7-, and 11-Year-Old Children
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Rupal Patel
    Northeastern University, Boston
  • Julie T. Brayton
    Northeastern University, Boston
  • Contact author: Rupal Patel, Department of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, Northeastern University, 106 Forsyth Building, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail: r.patel@neu.edu.
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosody / Speech / Research Articles
Research Article   |   June 01, 2009
Identifying Prosodic Contrasts in Utterances Produced by 4-, 7-, and 11-Year-Old Children
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2009, Vol. 52, 790-801. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0137)
History: Received June 21, 2007 , Revised March 10, 2008 , Accepted September 23, 2008
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2009, Vol. 52, 790-801. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0137)
History: Received June 21, 2007; Revised March 10, 2008; Accepted September 23, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 6

Purpose Acquisition of prosodic control appears to evolve across development with younger children relying on durational cues and older children utilizing a broader spectrum of cues including fundamental frequency, intensity, and duration. This study aimed to determine whether unfamiliar listeners could identify prosodic contrasts produced by 4-, 7-, and 11-year-olds despite differences in acoustic cues used by each age group.

Method Thirty-six adult monolingual speakers of American English participated as listeners. A previous study yielded speech recordings from 12 children (2 male, 2 female from each age group) producing 2 linguistic contrasts, question–statement and contrastive stress, which served as listening stimuli.

Results In both tasks, listener accuracy ranged from 39.7% to 100% with significant differences between 4-year-olds and both older age groups. Listeners had difficulty deciphering the 4-year-olds' questions compared with statements and were more accurate in identifying contrastive stress placed on sentence-initial words compared with sentence-final words across all age groups.

Conclusion Although listeners identified prosodic contrasts produced by all 3 age groups, accuracy was significantly higher for 7- and 11-year-old productions. Findings are consistent with production studies that suggest relative stabilization of prosodic control between ages 4 and 7. Parallels between prosodic and segmental acquisition are discussed.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported in part by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant DC-06118 and the Charles H. Hood Foundation. We would like to express our gratitude to Michael Everett for developing the graphical interface for the experiment; Howard Cabral, Michael Epstein, and Kevin Reilly for their assistance with the statistical analysis; and the participants for their time.
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