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The acquisition of speech rhythm by three-year-old bilingual and monolingual children: Cantonese and English*

  • PEGGY P. K. MOK (a1)


This study investigates the acquisition of speech rhythm by Cantonese–English bilingual children and their age-matched monolingual peers. Languages can be classified in terms of rhythmic characteristics that define English as stress-timed and Cantonese as syllable-timed. Few studies have examined the concurrent acquisition of rhythmically different languages in bilingual children. This study uses data of six Cantonese–English bilingual children around age 3;0 and compares them with six monolingual children in each language using recently developed acoustic rhythmic metrics on consonantal, vocalic and syllabic intervals. Qualitative data on syllable structure complexity and vowel quality are also included. Results on syllable duration show that monolingual children display distinct rhythmic patterns while the differences between the two languages of the bilingual children are less distinct. Bilingual English has less durational variability than monolingual English. Bilingual children have a distinct phonological developmental trajectory from monolingual children, which is manifested in acquisition delay and is influenced by language dominance. This shows that the two phonologies interact at the prosodic level.


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Address for correspondence: Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, Leung Kau Kui Building, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong


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The author would like to thank the parents of several monolingual children for the monolingual data. She is also grateful to Eunice Wong, Iris Luk, Wai Kit Kwok and Tintus Chan for data collection and segmentation. She thanks Angel Chan and Donald White for helpful discussions, and Lawrence White, Ruth Tincoff and three anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. This study was funded by the Direct Grant for Research 2007–2008, Second Round, Chinese University of Hong Kong.



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The acquisition of speech rhythm by three-year-old bilingual and monolingual children: Cantonese and English*

  • PEGGY P. K. MOK (a1)


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