Trochaic Template Use in Early Words and Phrases The speech of twenty normally developing children whose linguistic development spanned four MLU stages was recorded. The weak syllable productions in their spontaneous and elicited words and phrases were examined. The children demonstrated more frequent use of weak syllables that occurred in trochaic (strong + weak) than iambic (weak + ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 1997
Trochaic Template Use in Early Words and Phrases
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Karla K. McGregor, PhD
    Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, 2299 Campus Drive N., Evanston IL 60208
  • Amy C. Johnson
    Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, 2299 Campus Drive N., Evanston IL 60208
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 1997
Trochaic Template Use in Early Words and Phrases
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1997, Vol. 40, 1220-1231. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4006.1220
History: Received August 6, 1996 , Accepted February 26, 1997
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1997, Vol. 40, 1220-1231. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4006.1220
History: Received August 6, 1996; Accepted February 26, 1997

The speech of twenty normally developing children whose linguistic development spanned four MLU stages was recorded. The weak syllable productions in their spontaneous and elicited words and phrases were examined. The children demonstrated more frequent use of weak syllables that occurred in trochaic (strong + weak) than iambic (weak + strong) patterns. The constraint on iambs was not absolute; even children in MLU Stage I produced weak syllables in iambs occasionally. Also, it was not a constraint on lexical representations as the same pattern was evinced for word combinations. Weakly stressed articles were omitted significantly more often from noun phrases that were iambic than from those that were trochaic. These data suggest that a pattern of the form strong syllable + optional weak syllable [S(W)] serves as a template for multisyllabic productions, whether mono- or multimorphemic. With increasing MLU, S(W) template use declined and control of timing distinctions between weak and strong syllables became more adult-like. We conclude that the trochee may function as either an optimal representational unit or as an optimal timing unit for early syllable sequences. The trochaic template is invoked when the complexity of an intended utterance exceeds the child’s resources for planning and production.

Acknowledgments
We thank Jennifer Rutherford, Tom Severini, and Sarmad Hussain for their assistance with this project and Lisa Goffman, Larry Leonard, and Bruce Smith for their helpful feedback on earlier versions of this paper. We also appreciate the help of the parents and children who participated. This study was supported by a Northwestern University Research Grant awarded to the first author.
Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access