A gestural account of a child-specific neutralisation in strong position

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The child-specific phenomenon of preferential neutralisation in initial position, which reverses a positional bias attested across adult grammars, represents a long-standing problem for formal models of developmental phonology. In a phonetically based model of phonology, child-specific phonological patterns may emerge as the consequence of physical differences between child and adult speech. This paper presents new case-study data suggesting that a child-specific pattern of fricative neutralisation in initial position has its roots in children's articulatory limitations. Coarticulated fricative and vowel gestures are shown to require independent control of the tongue and jaw, known to be problematic for developing speakers. Substitution errors affecting fricatives are analysed as a phonologised reflex of this phonetic pressure to avoid overlapping vowel and fricative gestures. The positional asymmetry emerges as the consequence of the differing degrees of gestural overlap permitted in syllable-initial vs. syllable-final position, as encoded in the framework of Articulatory Phonology (Browman & Goldstein 1986).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-412
Number of pages42
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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