Practice and Experience Predict Coarticulation in Child Speech

Margaret Cychosz, Benjamin Munson, Jan R. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Much research in child speech development suggests that young children coarticulate more than adults. There are multiple, not mutually-exclusive, explanations for this pattern. For example, children may coarticulate more because they are limited by immature motor control. Or they may coarticulate more if they initially represent phonological segments in larger, more holistic units such as syllables or feet. We tested the importance of several different explanations for coarticulation in child speech by evaluating how four-year-olds’ language experience, speech practice, and speech planning predicted their coarticulation between adjacent segments in real words and paired nonwords. Children with larger vocabularies coarticulated less, especially in real words, though there were no reliable coarticulatory differences between real words and nonwords after controlling for word duration. Children who vocalized more throughout a daylong audio recording also coarticulated less. Quantity of child vocalizations was more predictive of the degree of children’s coarticulation than a measure of receptive language experience, adult word count. Overall, these results suggest strong roles for children’s phonological representations and speech practice, as well as their immature fine motor control, for coarticulatory development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-396
Number of pages31
JournalLanguage Learning and Development
Volume17
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Acoustical Society of America [Raymond H. Stetson Scholarship]; National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders [R0102932,T32DC000046]. The authors wish to acknowledge the families who participated in this research. They also thank many members of the Learning to Talk Labs at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities for assistance with data collection. Additional thanks to Rebecca Higgins at the University of Maryland, College Park for her assistance in data processing. Finally, the authors thank Dan Swingley, Lisa Redford, Tessa Bent, and one additional anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments that greatly improved this paper. This research was supported by the Raymond H. Stetson Scholarship in Phonetics and Speech Science (M.C.) and National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grants T32DC000046 (M.C.) and R01DC02932 (J.R.E., B.M., and Mary E. Beckman).

Funding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge the families who participated in this research. They also thank many members of the Learning to Talk Labs at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities for assistance with data collection. Additional thanks to Rebecca Higgins at the University of Maryland, College Park for her assistance in data processing. Finally, the authors thank Dan Swingley, Lisa Redford, Tessa Bent, and one additional anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments that greatly improved this paper. This research was supported by the Raymond H. Stetson Scholarship in Phonetics and Speech Science (M.C.) and National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grants T32DC000046 (M.C.) and R01DC02932 (J.R.E., B.M., and Mary E. Beckman).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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