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Recent findings have shown that children develop sensitivity to prosodic properties of speech very early in their language development. Evidence shows not only that infants are sensitive to prosody, but also that they use prosodic information to segment speech input for further linguistic processing. However, such findings are mainly derived from studies with children learning English. Little research has been done which indicates the extent to which these findings generalize to children learning languages other than English. Accordingly, this chapter addresses the question of whether Korean-learning children display similar sensitivity to Korean-specific prosodic properties/units, and if they use prosodic information in processing speech input. The chapter first reviews a number of studies on the acquisition of prosody among infants/children learning English. A description of several well-known prosodic characteristics of Korean and a review of prosodic perception/production findings with 3- to 5-year-old Korean children follows.
Prosody, also known as intonation or suprasegmental features, in general refers to variations in acoustic cues such as fundamental frequency (f0), amplitude, and duration that accompany the segmental units of speech (e.g. vowels and consonants) and influence sentence meaning (Ladefoged, 1993; Lehiste, 1970). These acoustic cues form various patterns that give human speech rhythmic regularities (e.g. timing of moraic, syllabic, or stress units), regular pitch patterns (e.g. rising or falling intonation patterns of utterances), or durational properties (e.g. vowel length or pausing patterns).
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