Compensatory Strategies in the Developmental Patterns of English /s/: Gender and Vowel Context Effects Purpose The developmental trajectory of English /s/ was investigated to determine the extent to which children's speech productions are acoustically fine-grained. Given the hypothesis that young children have adultlike phonetic knowledge of /s/, the following were examined: (a) whether this knowledge manifests itself in acoustic spectra that match the gender-specific ... Research Article
Research Article  |   March 01, 2017
Compensatory Strategies in the Developmental Patterns of English /s/: Gender and Vowel Context Effects
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Hye-Young Bang
    Department of Linguistics, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • Meghan Clayards
    Department of Linguistics, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
    School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • Heather Goad
    Department of Linguistics, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Hye-Young Bang: hye-young.bang@mail.mcgill.ca
  • Editor: Ewa Jacewicz
    Editor: Ewa Jacewicz×
  • Associate Editor: Ewa Jacewicz
    Associate Editor: Ewa Jacewicz×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   March 01, 2017
Compensatory Strategies in the Developmental Patterns of English /s/: Gender and Vowel Context Effects
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, March 2017, Vol. 60, 571-591. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-15-0381
History: Received November 2, 2015 , Revised April 17, 2016 , Accepted July 11, 2016
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, March 2017, Vol. 60, 571-591. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-15-0381
History: Received November 2, 2015; Revised April 17, 2016; Accepted July 11, 2016

Purpose The developmental trajectory of English /s/ was investigated to determine the extent to which children's speech productions are acoustically fine-grained. Given the hypothesis that young children have adultlike phonetic knowledge of /s/, the following were examined: (a) whether this knowledge manifests itself in acoustic spectra that match the gender-specific patterns of adults, (b) whether vowel context affects the spectra of /s/ in adults and children similarly, and (c) whether children adopt compensatory production strategies to match adult acoustic targets.

Method Several acoustic variables were measured from word-initial /s/ (and /t/) and the following vowel in the productions of children aged 2 to 5 years and adult controls using 2 sets of corpora from the Paidologos database.

Results Gender-specific patterns in the spectral distribution of /s/ were found. Acoustically, more canonical /s/ was produced before vowels with higher F1 (i.e., lower vowels) in children, a context where lingual articulation is challenging. Measures of breathiness and vowel intrinsic F0 provide evidence that children use a compensatory aerodynamic mechanism to achieve their acoustic targets in articulatorily challenging contexts.

Conclusion Together, these results provide evidence that children's phonetic knowledge is acoustically detailed and gender specified and that speech production goals are acoustically oriented at early stages of speech development.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by grants awarded to Meghan Clayards by the Fonds de recherche du Québec–Société et culture (2011-NC-145433), to Lydia White, Heather Goad, and colleagues by the Fonds de recherche du Québec–Société et culture (2010-SE-130727), and to Heather Goad and Lydia White by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (435-2015-0490). We would like to thank Mary Beckman for making the adult files from the Paidologos project available and for providing information on how these data were collected. An earlier version of this work, which reported on a subset of the data, was presented at the 39th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development and appears in the proceedings (Bang, Clayards, & Goad, 2015).
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