A Population Study of Children’s Acquisition of Hong Kong Cantonese Consonants, Vowels, and Tones PurposeThis study investigated children’s acquisition of Hong Kong Cantonese.MethodParticipants were 1,726 children ages 2;4 to 12;4 (years;months). Single-word speech samples were collected to examine 4 measures: initial consonants, final consonants, vowels/diphthongs, and lexical tones. A 2-way analysis of variance was performed to examine the effects of age and sex on ... Article
Article  |   February 01, 2013
A Population Study of Children’s Acquisition of Hong Kong Cantonese Consonants, Vowels, and Tones
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Carol K. S. To
    The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, The People’s Republic of China
  • Pamela S. P. Cheung
    Child Assessment Service, Hong Kong SAR
  • Sharynne McLeod
    Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia
  • Correspondence to Carol To: tokitsum@hku.hk
  • Editor: Anne Smith
    Editor: Anne Smith×
  • Associate Editor: Barbara Davis
    Associate Editor: Barbara Davis×
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Speech
Article   |   February 01, 2013
A Population Study of Children’s Acquisition of Hong Kong Cantonese Consonants, Vowels, and Tones
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2013, Vol. 56, 103-122. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/11-0080)
History: Received April 1, 2011 , Revised August 29, 2011 , Accepted March 30, 2012
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2013, Vol. 56, 103-122. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/11-0080)
History: Received April 1, 2011; Revised August 29, 2011; Accepted March 30, 2012
Web of Science® Times Cited: 15

PurposeThis study investigated children’s acquisition of Hong Kong Cantonese.

MethodParticipants were 1,726 children ages 2;4 to 12;4 (years;months). Single-word speech samples were collected to examine 4 measures: initial consonants, final consonants, vowels/diphthongs, and lexical tones. A 2-way analysis of variance was performed to examine the effects of age and sex on phoneme acquisition.

ResultsThere was rapid acquisition of initial consonants from age 2;6 to age 4;6. All 19 initial consonants were acquired by age 6;0 (90% criterion): /p-/, /m-/, and /j-/ were acquired the earliest; the last were /tsh-/ and /s-/. Final consonants had a different acquisition time from their initial counterparts. Vowels were acquired by age 5;0 and diphthongs by age 4;0. All 9 tones were acquired by age 2;6. The main effect of age was significant for all 4 measures, whereas sex was significant for all measures except tone. Common phonological patterns (≥ 10%) for initial consonants were stopping, fronting, deaspiration, delabialization, affrication, and nasalization; patterns with 5.0%–9.9% occurrence were backing, deaffrication, gliding, and dentalization.

ConclusionsThe acquisition of Cantonese showed similarities with English acquisition yet also had specific characteristics. Factors that contributed to the acquisition rate were functional load, articulatory ease, consonant–vowel interactions, phonetic variations, and the behavior of vowels and their allophones.

Acknowledgments
The third author acknowledges support from Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT0990588). We gratefully acknowledge the Child Assessment Service of the Government of Hong Kong SAR, the City University of Hong Kong, and all the SLPs who participated in this project. We thank the schools, the children, and their parents who helped us with this research.
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