A Prominence Account of Syllable Reduction in Early Speech Development The Child's Prosodic Phonology of Tiger and Giraffe Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 1998
A Prominence Account of Syllable Reduction in Early Speech Development
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • David Snow
    Child Language Center The University of Arizona Tucson
  • Contact author: David Snow, PhD, Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences, 1353 Heavilon Hall, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1353
  • Currently affiliated with Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
    Currently affiliated with Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 1998
A Prominence Account of Syllable Reduction in Early Speech Development
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 1998, Vol. 41, 1171-1184. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4105.1171
History: Received January 21, 1997 , Accepted March 19, 1998
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 1998, Vol. 41, 1171-1184. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4105.1171
History: Received January 21, 1997; Accepted March 19, 1998

When young children produce multiword utterances and words that are polysyllabic in adult speech, they are most likely to omit unstressed syllables. Because unstressed syllables are omitted more often in weak-strong (iambic) than in strong-weak (trochaic) environments, a trochaic metrical theory has been proposed to account for the asymmetrical omission pattern. This paper presents an alternative explanation based on the notion of relative prosodic prominence. I propose that syllable prominence is a product of two orthogonal suprasegmental systems: one that marks stress/accent peaks and one that marks phrase boundaries. A two-component scale of prominence values reflecting the contributions of both systems was used to analyze single- and multi-word speech samples of 11 children 19 to 26 months of age. The results show that the prominence scale parsimoniously accounts not only for the bias toward syllable omissions in nontrochaic environments but also explains other types of syllable reduction not captured by metrical theories. Implications of the dual-system prosodic model are discussed in terms of possible contributions to a perceptually based theory of early polysyllabic and multiword patterns in child speech.

Acknowledgments
This research was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education (H029D90108) and a McDonnell-Pew grant from the Cognitive Neurosciences program at the University of Arizona. Portions of this research were presented at the 19th Annual Child Phonology Conference, Charlottesville, VA, April 23-25, 1998. I would like to thank Carol Stoel-Gammon, Marilyn Vihman, Margaret Kehoe, and Lisa Goffman for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. Special thanks also to Amy Wilcox for her contributions to the reliability portion of the study.
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