Five-year-olds produce prosodic cues to distinguish compounds from lists in Australian English

Ivan Yuen*, Nan Xu Rattanasone, Elaine Schmidt, Gretel Macdonald, Rebecca Holt, Katherine Demuth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Although previous research has indicated that five-year-olds can use acoustic cues to disambiguate compounds (N1 + N2) from lists (N1, N2) (e.g., 'ice-cream' vs. 'ice, cream') (Yoshida & Katz, 2004, 2006), their productions are not yet fully adult-like (Wells, Peppé & Goulandris, 2004). The goal of this study was to examine this issue in Australian English-speaking children, with a focus on their use of F0, word duration, and pauses. Twenty-four five-year-olds and 20 adults participated in an elicited production experiment. Like adults, children produced distinct F0 patterns for the two structures. They also used longer word durations and more pauses in lists compared to compounds, indicating the presence of a boundary in lists. However, unlike adults, they also inappropriately inserted more pauses within the compound, suggesting the presence of a boundary in compounds as well. The implications for understanding children's developing knowledge of how to map acoustic cues to prosodic structures are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110–128
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Child Language
Issue number1
Early online date13 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • prosody
  • lists/compounds
  • speech production
  • prosodic boundary
  • child language


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