A child-specific compensatory mechanism in the acquisition of English /s/
Hye-Young Bang, Meghan Clayards, Heather Goad
January 2015

Research from grammar-driven perspectives shares the position that children’s production target for /s/ is not fundamentally different from what the adult perceives. Departing from this approach, we propose that children’s production goal for /s/ is the adult target [s], even when their outputs are not perceived as such. Our view predicts that non-target-like forms emerge due to functional differences between children’s and adults’ articulatory systems interfacing with an adult-like phonological grammar. Further, we consider children to be more active learners than the previous views suggest. As a consequence, we expect to see gender differences emerge early in development as children actively strive to achieve their gender-matched phonetic targets. The data that we use to support our position come from word-initial [sV] productions from 79 children aged from 2 to 5. We compare these data with word-initial [sV] syllables produced by 13 adults. The results show that children produced more canonical /s/ in nonhigh vowel contexts to approximate the target phonetic output in contexts that are articulatorily or functionally more challenging. From acoustic findings, we conclude that children use a more accessible mechanism, which is not used by adults, by increasing airflow during /s/ production to achieve the gender-specific targets for /s/.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/002842
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Proceedings of BUCLD 39. Somerville, Mass: Cascadilla Press, pp. 75-87.
keywords: acquisition, production, aerodynamics, articulation, sibilants, phonology
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