No AccessJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing ResearchResearch Article22 Jun 2020

Phonetic Implementation of Prosodic Emphasis in Preschool-Aged Children and Adults: Probing the Development of Sensorimotor Speech Goals


    We aimed to investigate the production of contrastive emphasis in French-speaking 4-year-olds and adults. Based on previous work, we predicted that, due to their immature motor control abilities, preschool-aged children would produce smaller articulatory differences between emphasized and neutral syllables than adults.


    Ten 4-year-old children and 10 adult French speakers were recorded while repeating /bib/, /bub/, and /bab/ sequences in neutral and contrastive emphasis conditions. Synchronous recordings of tongue movements, lip and jaw positions, and speech signals were made. Lip positions and tongue shapes were analyzed; formant frequencies, amplitude, fundamental frequency, and duration were extracted from the acoustic signals; and between-vowel contrasts were calculated.


    Emphasized vowels were higher in pitch, intensity, and duration than their neutral counterparts in all participants. However, the effect of contrastive emphasis on lip position was smaller in children. Prosody did not affect tongue position in children, whereas it did in adults. As a result, children's productions were perceived less accurately than those of adults.


    These findings suggest that 4-year-old children have not yet learned to produce hypoarticulated forms of phonemic goals to allow them to successfully contrast syllables and enhance prosodic saliency.


    Additional Resources