Acoustic investigations into the later acquisition of syllabic -es plurals

Kiri T. Mealings, Felicity Cox, Katherine Demuth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: Children acquire /-z/ syllabic plurals (e.g., buses) later than /-s, -z/ segmental plurals (e.g., cats, dogs). In this study, the authors explored whether increased syllable numberorsegmental factors best explains poorer performance with syllabic plurals. Method: An elicited imitation experiment was conducted with 14 two-year-olds involving 8 familiar disyllabic target plural nouns, half with syllabic plurals (e.g., bus → buses) and half with segmental plurals (e.g., letter → letters). Children saw pictures of the target items on a computer and repeated prerecorded 3-word-utterances with the target word in utterance-medial position (e.g., "The buses come") and utterance-final position (e.g., "Hear the buses"). Acoustic analysis determined the presence or absence of the plural morpheme and its duration. Results: Children had more trouble producing syllabic plurals compared with segmental plurals. Errors were especially evident in the utterance-medial position, where there was less time for the child to perceive/produce the word in the absence of phrase-final lengthening and where planning for the following word was still required. Conclusions: The results suggested that articulatory difficulties-rather than a word length effect-explain later acquisition of syllabic plurals relative to segmental plurals. These findings have implications for the nature of syllabic plural acquisition in children with hearing impairments and specific language impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1260-1271
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Volume56
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013

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