Children’s acquisition of English onset and coda /l/: articulatory evidence

Susan Lin*, Katherine Demuth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The goal of this study was to better understand how and when onset /l/ (leap) and coda /l/ (peel) are acquired by children by examining both the articulations involved and adults’ perceptions of the produced segments. Method: Twenty-five typically developing Australian English–speaking children aged 3;0 (years;months) to 7;11 participated in an elicited imitation task, during which audio, video, and lingual ultrasound images were collected. Transcribers perceptually rated audio, whereas video and ultrasound images were visually examined for the presence of adult-like articulations. Results: Data from this study establish that for Australian English–learning children, coda/l /s are acquired later than onset /l/s, and older children produce greater proportions of adultlike /l/s in both onset and coda positions, roughly following established norms for American English–speaking children. However, although perceptibility of coda /l/s was correlated with their articulations, onset /l/s were nearly uniformly perceived as adultlike despite substantial variation in the articulations used to produce them. Conclusions: The disparity in the production and perception of children’s singleton onset /l/s is linked to both physiological and phonological development. Suggestions are made for future research to tease these factors apart.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-27
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


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