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From babbling towards the sound systems of English and French: A longitudinal two-case study

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The utterances of one French and one American infant at 0;5, 0;8, 0;11, and 1;2 were transcribed and acoustically analysed for syllable duration and vowel formant values. Both general and language-specific effects emerged in the longitudinal study. Initial similarities in the consonantal repertoires of both infants, increasing control in producing target F1 and F2 values, and developmental changes in babbling characteristics over time seem to reflect universal patterns. Yet the babbling of the infants differed in ways that appear to be due to differences in their language environments. Shifts in the infants' sound repertoires reflected phoneme frequencies in the adult languages. The English-learning infant produced more closed syllables, which is characteristic of English, than the French-learning infant. The French-learning infant tended to produce more regularly-timed nonfinal syllables and showed significantly more final-syllable lengthening (both characteristic of French) than the English-learning infant.
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... The effect of language on syllabic structures can be inferred, but the scope of this interpretation remains limited since very few different structures were considered. Levitt and Utman (1992) showed that from 11 months onwards, the English child they studied, unlike the French one, began to increase his production of closed syllables. The authors interpreted this result with regard to the characteristics of the respective languages, since English contains more closed syllables and French more open ones (Delattre & Olsen, 1969;Goldman et al., 1996). ...
... These results are in line with the work carried out in different languages showing the dominance of the CV structure and more broadly of open syllables in babbling productions (a.o. Lahrouchi & Kern, 2018;Levitt & Utman, 1992;Roy & Sreedevi, 2013). Although it is generally accepted that articulatory control improves during babbling (Canault et al., 2020;Green & Wilson, 2006), this progression does not seem to have an impact on the complexity of syllabic structures since their distribution remained the same between 8 and 14 months of age. ...
... However, the infants included in Gerhold and colleagues' study were followed at 7, 11 and 18 months, which corresponds to a later follow-up window than that covered by our study, and the observed evolution was significantly more marked between 11 and 18 months when the lexical development is strong (as a reminder, only 1.1% of the syllables in our sample are included in words). Levitt and Utman (1992) also found a change between the syllabic structures of a French infant and those of an English infant from 11 months of age, with an increase in the production of closed syllables for the English infant indicating that the target language has an influence on early productions, since there are more closed syllables in English than in French (Delattre & Olsen, 1969;Goldman et al., 1996). The syllables with the highest prevalence in infant's data are also those with the highest frequency in spoken French (Adda-Decker et al., 2005;Wioland, 1985). ...
Article
Cross-linguistic studies describing the syllabic structures of babbling productions agree on the high prevalence of the CV structure, but few have addressed the other types of syllables emerging during this pre-linguistic stage. However, studying the evolution of the distribution of syllabic structures during babbling would make it possible to test both the influence of motor constraints and the influence of the perceptually based patterns from the infant’s language environmental input on the production of early syllables. A monthly follow-up of 22 French infants from 8 to 14 months showed that the distribution CV>V> CCV>CVC>VC was shared by the majority of infants in the sample and remained the same throughout the observation period. The comparison of the frequencies of the structures observed with those attested in adult-French and in 4 other languages (Dutch, Korean, Moroccan Arabic and Tunisian Arabic) revealed significant differences between all adult samples and infant productions. The results have implications for understanding the nature of factors impacting syllable production at the babbling stage. We discuss the possibility that the target language does not affect the production of babbled syllables.
... The similarities between the earliest productions of infants learning different languages have been proposed to be rooted in the anatomical constraints as well as immature speech motor control of infants. However, at least some research on monolingual infants learning different languages has shown that the distribution of segments, whether consonants or vowels, is shaped by the ambient language, even within the first year of life (Boysson- Bardies, Halle, Sagart & Durand, 1989;Landberg & Arao, 1992;Rvachew, Alhaidary, Mattock & Polka, 2008; but see also Levitt & Utman, 1992;Rvachew, Mattock, Polka & Ménard, 2006;and Lee, Davis & MacNeilage, 2010). ...
... Several researchers have suggested that infants reproduce the prosodic characteristics of their ambient language before its segmental patterns (e.g., Crystal, 1979;. Cross-linguistic research shows that monolingual infants between 8-12-months of age begin to produce the characteristic intonation (Whalen, Levitt & Wang, 1991), syllable, and word-form shapes (Levitt & Utman, 1992;Lleó, Prinz, El Mogharbel & Maldonado, 1996) of the specific language to which they are exposed. Perhaps this is not surprising given that the human fetus responds to the supra-segmental properties of speech input by about 30 weeks of gestation (Kisilevsky, Hains, Lee, Xie, Huang, Ye, Zhang & Wang, 2003), and even newborns' cries reflect the prosodic characteristics of their mother's language (Mampe, Friederici, Christophe & Wermke, 2009). ...
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We evaluated the impact of exposure to a second language on infants’ emerging speech production skills. We compared speech produced by three groups of 12-month-old infants while they interacted with interlocutors who spoke to them in Spanish and English: monolingual English-learning infants who had previously received 5 hours of exposure to a second language (Spanish), English- and Spanish-learning simultaneous bilinguals, and monolingual English-learning infants without any exposure to Spanish. Our results showed that the monolingual English-learning infants with short-term exposure to Spanish and the bilingual infants, but not the monolingual English-learning infants without exposure to Spanish, flexibly matched the prosody of their babbling to that of a Spanish- or English-speaking interlocutor. Our findings demonstrate the nature and extent of benefits for language learning from early exposure to two languages. We discuss the implications of these findings for language organization in infants learning two languages.
... Indeed, research on cultural variations in infant crying and babbling strongly suggest that plasticity begins early in life. Newborns' crying is influenced by ambient native-language prosodic cues (Mampe et al., 2009), which also influences later-inlife babble (De Boysson- Bardies et al., 1981;de Boysson-Bardies et al., 1984;de Boysson-Bardies et al., 1989;Levitt and Utman, 1992) and rhythmic-prosodic properties such as positionally appropriate syllabic lengthening (Levitt and Wang, 1991). Finally, reflecting the developing SVT, cultural variations in consonantal sounds may appear later in development, compared with vowelswhich are comparatively easily produced-and exhibit early cultural influence (Chen and Kent, 2010;Lee et al., 2010; but see de Boysson-Bardies et al., 1989). ...
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Every normally developing human infant solves the difficult problem of mapping their native-language phonology, but the neural mechanisms underpinning this behavior remain poorly understood. Here, motor constellation theory, an integrative neurophonological model, is presented, with the goal of explicating this issue. It is assumed that infants’ motor-auditory phonological mapping takes place through infants’ orosensory “reaching” for phonological elements observed in the language-specific ambient phonology, via reference to kinesthetic feedback from motor systems (e.g., articulators), and auditory feedback from resulting speech and speech-like sounds. Attempts are regulated by basal ganglion–cerebellar speech neural circuitry, and successful attempts at reproduction are enforced through dopaminergic signaling. Early in life, the pace of anatomical development constrains mapping such that complete language-specific phonological mapping is prohibited by infants’ undeveloped supralaryngeal vocal tract and undescended larynx; constraints gradually dissolve with age, enabling adult phonology. Where appropriate, reference is made to findings from animal and clinical models. Some implications for future modeling and simulation efforts, as well as clinical settings, are also discussed.
... They reported no significant change in the relative production of ELC and LLC during this time period and, precisely, a ratio of 80% ELCs to 20% LLCs ( Table 3, p. 303 of the original paper). Levitt and Utman (1992) presented a case study whose results agree with the tendencies identified by de Boysson-Bardies & Vihman (although note that the relative percentage of LLCs reported here appears slightly lower than those reported by de Boysson-Bardies & Vihman, which is related to the fact that Levitt & Utman also counted glides, while de Boysson-Bardies & Vihman did not). Similar patterns are also observed cross-linguistically and beyond individual variation, due to the progressive attainment of neuromuscular control on the articulators (Green et al., 2000;McLeod and Crowe, 2018). ...
Article
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Growing evidence shows that early speech processing relies on information extracted from speech production. In particular, production skills are linked to word-form processing, as more advanced producers prefer listening to pseudowords containing consonants they do not yet produce. However, it is unclear whether production affects word-form encoding (the translation of perceived phonological information into a memory trace) and/or recognition (the automatic retrieval of a stored item). Distinguishing recognition from encoding makes it possible to explore whether sensorimotor information is stored in long-term phonological representations (and thus, retrieved during recognition) or is processed when encoding a new item, but not necessarily when retrieving a stored item. In this study, we asked whether speech-related sensorimotor information is retained in long-term representations of word-forms. To this aim, we tested the effect of production on the recognition of ecologically learned, real familiar word-forms. Testing these items allowed to assess the effect of sensorimotor information in a context in which encoding did not happen during testing itself. Two groups of French-learning monolinguals (11- and 14-month-olds) participated in the study. Using the Headturn Preference Procedure, each group heard two lists, each containing 10 familiar word-forms composed of either early-learned consonants (commonly produced by French-learners at these ages) or late-learned consonants (more rarely produced at these ages). We hypothesized differences in listening preferences as a function of word-list and/or production skills. At both 11 and 14 months, babbling skills modulated orientation times to the word-lists containing late-learned consonants. This specific effect establishes that speech production impacts familiar word-form recognition by 11 months, suggesting that sensorimotor information is retained in long-term word-form representations and accessed during word-form processing.
... Before children produce adult-like speech they are thought to follow a universal trend (Fox & Dodd, 2001). They follow the legal constraints of their native language after the early babbling stage and exclude phonemes that are not part of the phonology of their language (Bernthal, Bankson & Flipsen;Levitt & Utman, 1992; Yalcinkaya et al. (2010) Single word 12-83 753 Turkey Azeri-Turkish Nojavan et al. (2019) Picture naming 36-60 120 Iran years or earlier and acquisition of all consonants in the initial position precedes that of the final position. Older children had high phoneme accuracy compared with those of the younger children. ...
Article
Background given the lack of sufficient information and research about phonological acquisition in the Kurdish language, the aim of this study was to examine phonological acquisition in typically developing Kurdish-speaking children. Three analyses were performed: (1) the age of customary, acquisition and mastery production of Kurdish consonants; (2) phonological accuracy and the age of phonological pattern suppression; and (3) effect of age and sex on speech sound acquisition. Methods this research assessed 120 monolingual Kurdish-speaking children aged 3;0 to 5;0 years. The participants were selected randomly from the health center of Bukan city, Iran. Acquisition of 29 Kurdish consonants was assessed using the Kurdish Speech Test. Findings results found that Kurdish-speaking children had acquired all the vowels before 3;0 and all the consonants in the three positions of initial, medial and final up to 4;6 years old, with the exception of /ʤ/ in initial position, /ɣ/ in medial position and /ʒ/, /z/, /ɡ/, /ɣ/ in final position. Consonant production in initial position was more accurate than in medial and final positions. The accuracy of Kurdish vowels and consonants improves with increasing age as phonological patterns decrease. There was no significant sex difference within the age groups; however, overall, a statistically significant difference was noted for fricative production and for production of word final consonants in the older groups with females outperforming males. Conclusions the present study is the first investigation of speech sound acquisition in Kurdish-speaking children. Knowledge of typical speech sound acquisition provides a basis for speech-language pathologists working with Kurdish-speaking children to differentiate children with typical development from those with speech delays and speech sound disorders.
... An effect of production frequencies in the speech input on the learning path of vowels (De Boysson-bardies et al., 1989;Rvachew et al., 2008), consonantal place and manner (De Boysson-bardies & Vihman, 1991) but also syllabic structures (Levelt & Van de Vijver, 2004) may occur. Thus, babbling and the first words of English children have more closed syllables than that of French children (Levitt & Aydelott Utman, 1992). In addition, the first step in making the syllable more complex in French would be to omit the consonant in the onset whereas in English it consists of adding a consonant in the coda. ...
Article
Although Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) has been extensively investigated in the clinical literature, most of the findings regarding impairments in the production of syllable structure, recorded within this population, have been mainly focused on English. The main purpose of this two-year follow-up case study was, therefore, to examine whether syllable complexity may be considered as a robust indicator in CAS and whether it can explain the persistence of errors and, if so, at what age. This was tested in a boy followed up annually from age 5 to 7 who was administered a narrative task. Data analyses used the Phon program to estimate accuracies of different syllabic structures, phones, singleton and cluster consonants. Overall, the findings suggest that this child experienced difficulty producing syllabic structure commensurately with the level of complexity of the target structures. Notably, the presence of syllable planning/sequen- cing deficit found in French data clearly supports the hypotheses according to which (a) there is a relationship between the level of complexity of syllabic structures and their simplification and (b) the persistence of errors on the most complex syllables remains, becom- ing a robust indicator for identifying CAS from other speech disor- ders. Further cross-language investigations on syllable complexity in CAS are needed to design better assessments and to plan efficient intervention.
... Appearance of ambient language influences in production repertoires has been examined for utterance and syllable structures (Boysson- Bardies, 1993;Kopkalli-Yavuz & Topbaç, 2000), vowel and consonant repertoires and distribution (Boysson-Bardies, Hallé, Sagart &Durand, 1989 and1992) as well as CV co-occurrence preferences (e.g. Lee, 2003). ...
... Also, very little is known about typical patterns of vocal development in Finnish infants (Liukkonen & Kunnari, 2012). Language-specific features in consonant production have been documented already at 8-10 months of age, which might be evident also in vocal development (de Boysson-Bardies & Vihman, 1991;Kern & Davis, 2009;Levitt & Aydelott Utman, 1992). Second, the infants in the current study were bilaterally implanted close to their first birthdays. ...
Article
Purpose The purpose of this study was to investigate the time course of vocal development in infants and toddlers with bilateral cochlear implants (CIs; bilateral CI group) who are acquiring Finnish and to compare their progress to that of infants with normal hearing and typical development (TD group). Method Five thousand nine hundred sixty-four spontaneous utterances of 30 infants and toddlers (15 in both groups) were classified as either precanonical (PC) vocalizations, basic canonical syllables (BCS), or advanced forms (AF) levels. Time course of development and group differences were analyzed in a prospective longitudinal study during a time course of 1 year: before implantation and 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after CI activation for the bilateral CI group and at 6, 9, and 12 months of age for the TD group. Results The least mature PC vocalizations decreased and the BCS and AF vocalizations increased for both the bilateral CI and TD groups during the follow-up period of 1 year. The bilateral CI group produced a lower percentage of PC vocalizations (effect size, η p ² = .35) and a higher percentage of BCS (effect size, η p ² = .16) and AF vocalizations (effect size, η p ² = 0.24) than the TD group. Conclusions The findings of this study showed that vocal development of infants and toddlers with early-identified profound hearing loss is delayed before CI activation. Findings also showed that infants and toddlers with bilateral CIs make rapid advancements in vocal development after implantation compared to infants with typical development. However, their vocal development seems to remain delayed at least during the 1st year of bilateral CI use as compared to the well-documented milestones of infants and toddlers with typical development. Information about the vocal development time course following bilateral CI activation helps parents recognize progress in auditory-guided speech development before the emergence and the use of spoken words in communication.
Thesis
De nombreuses études ont démontré que les apprenants français de l’anglais peinent à acquérir une bonne prononciation de cette langue. Leur maitrise des segments, mais aussi celle de la prosodie de l’anglais reste le plus souvent très fragile, malgré un apprentissage précoce de la langue en milieu scolaire puisque les élèves français débutent l’apprentissage de l’anglais dès le CP. Ceci est surprenant puisque le Ministère indique dans ses directives au niveau national vouloir rendre prioritaire l’enseignement de l’oral dans les classes de langues. La littérature ainsi qu’une étude menée dans le cadre de cette thèse suggèrent que ce faible niveau serait dû à un enseignement dont la composante phonétique serait quasi-absente, notamment en raison d’une non-formation des professeurs en didactique de la prononciation. Ainsi, nous avons souhaité mener une étude expérimentale dont le but était de voir s’il était possible d’intégrer cette composante au programme efficacement et de manière à la fois utile pour les élèves et pour l’enseignante. Pour cela, deux classes de seconde orléanaises ont été sélectionnées. L’une d’entre elle a suivi à raison d’une heure par semaine un entrainement renforcé en phonétique pendant 10 semaines, et l’autre non. Trois sessions d’évaluation réparties sur 22 semaines ont permis d’établir la progression de la qualité d’anglais oral des élèves des deux classes, et donc de tester l’efficacité de l’entrainement prodigué. Les résultats suggèrent que l’entrainement proposé aux élèves de la classe testée leur a permis d’améliorer significativement leur prononciation de l’anglais, tandis que l’enseignement classique qu’ont suivi les élèves de la classe témoin n’a pas rendu possible une telle progression.
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Controversy exists over whether there is any connection between children's babbling and the development of the adult sound system. The classic proponent of the discontinuity school is Jakobson 1941/1968, who claimed that the pairing of sound and meaning drastically alters the child's sound system. Jakobson's arguments for discontinuity are here evaluated on the basis of data on the transition from babbling to speech in a single set of children recorded weekly in two contexts: mother-child interaction and solitary play. Using the data from the mother-child context, and comparing the sound system of babbling with that of the early words in terms of the distribution of consonants, vocalization length, and phonotactic structure, we find striking parallelism between babbling and words within each child, across time and within time period. The data constitute strong evidence for continuity.
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This chapter discusses the emergence of the sounds of speech in infancy and describes infant vocalizations during the first year of life. Beginning about the fifth month, there are a number of vocalization types that regularly appear in the normal infant's controlled repertoire. One of the major occurrences of the expansion stage is the widespread repetitive usage of fully resonant nuclei (FRN) vowel-like elements that systematically include strong resonances above 1200 Hz. Isolated occurrences of FRNs without closures or other consonant-like elements cannot be the most frequent vocalizations at any stage. The usage of the vocalization types of the expansion stage fluctuates radically from day to day. The infant can produce many exemplars of one category on one day and none of the same category on the next day. The relatively rigid timing characteristics of syllabification in natural languages are introduced into the child's vocalization system at the onset of canonical babbling (BB). BB includes both consonant-like units and FRNs in a timing relationship that conforms to mature natural language restrictions.