Phonotactic Probabilities at the Onset of Language Development: Speech Production and Word Position Purpose To examine the role of phonotactic probabilities at the onset of language development, in a new language (Dutch), while controlling for word position. Method Using a nonword imitation task, 64 Dutch-learning children (age 2;2–2;8 [years;months]) were tested on how they imitated segments in low- and high-phonotactic probability ... Research Article
Research Article  |   February 01, 2009
Phonotactic Probabilities at the Onset of Language Development: Speech Production and Word Position
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Tania S. Zamuner
    Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • Contact author: Tania S. Zamuner, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z4, Canada. E-mail: tzamuner@psych.ubc.ca.
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   February 01, 2009
Phonotactic Probabilities at the Onset of Language Development: Speech Production and Word Position
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2009, Vol. 52, 49-60. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0138)
History: Received June 27, 2007 , Revised August 28, 2007 , Accepted May 27, 2008
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2009, Vol. 52, 49-60. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0138)
History: Received June 27, 2007; Revised August 28, 2007; Accepted May 27, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 20

Purpose To examine the role of phonotactic probabilities at the onset of language development, in a new language (Dutch), while controlling for word position.

Method Using a nonword imitation task, 64 Dutch-learning children (age 2;2–2;8 [years;months]) were tested on how they imitated segments in low- and high-phonotactic probability environments, in word-initial and word-final position. The relationship between phonological representations and vocabulary development was examined by comparing children’s performance with their receptive and expressive vocabularies.

Results Segments in high-phonotactic probability environments were at an advantage in production, in both word-initial and word-final position. Significant correlations were found between vocabulary size and children’s mean segment repetition accuracy for word-initial position, but not in word-final position.

Conclusion The results indicate that phonological representations are mediated not only by children’s developing vocabularies but also by the structure of children’s emerging lexicons.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research NWO Grant 275-75-001 awarded to Tania S. Zamuner. I thank Krista Byers-Heinlein, Katherine Demuth, Suzanne van der Feest, Paula Fikkert, Elizabeth Johnson, Julianne Scott, Erik Jan van der Torre, Ellen Westrek, and three anonymous reviewers for comments and assistance. I am indebted to Diane Ohala for the use of her nonword pictures and to Joost van de Weijer for the use of his corpus. This research was conducted at the KindertaalLab at the Radboud University Nijmegen. This lab is assisted by the MPI Baby Research Center, funded by the Spinoza Project, which was awarded to Anne Cutler.
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