Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-m8s7h Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-23T15:54:12.574Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 May 2020

Ivan YUEN*
Macquarie University, Department of Linguistics, 16 University Avenue, Macquarie University, North Ryde, Sydney, NSW2109, Australia
Macquarie University, Department of Linguistics, 16 University Avenue, Macquarie University, North Ryde, Sydney, NSW2109, Australia
University of Cambridge, UK
Yuendumu School, Australia
Rebecca HOLT
Macquarie University, Department of Linguistics, 16 University Avenue, Macquarie University, North Ryde, Sydney, NSW2109, Australia
Katherine DEMUTH
Macquarie University, Department of Linguistics, 16 University Avenue, Macquarie University, North Ryde, Sydney, NSW2109, Australia
*Corresponding author: Macquarie University – Linguistics, 16 University Avenue, Macquarie University, North Ryde, Sydney, NSW2109, Australia Email:


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.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Aoyama, K., Akbari, C., & Flege, J. E. (2016). “Prosodic characteristics of American English in school-age children,” Proceedings of Speech Prosody 2016, 572–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bååth, R. (2010). “ChildFreq: an online tool to explore word frequencies in child language,LUCS Minor, 16, 16.Google Scholar
Bates, D., Mächler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2015). Fitting Linear Mixed-Effects Models Using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software; Vol 1, Issue 1 (2015). Retrieved from Scholar
Beach, C. M., Katz, W. F., & Skowronski, A. (1996). “Children's processing of prosodic cues for phrasal interpretation,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 99, 11481160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Boersma, P., & Weenink, D. (2011). Praat: Doing phonetics by computer. (Last viewed May 4, 2011).Google Scholar
Cho, T., Kim, J., & Kim, S. (2013). “Preboundary lengthening and preaccentual shortening across syllables in a trisyllabic word in English,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 133, EL384390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Choi, J. Y. (2003). “Pause length and speech rate as durational cues for prosody markers,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 114, 23952395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cutler, A., & Butterfield, S. (1990). “Durational cues to word boundaries in clear speech,Speech Communication, 9, 485495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dankovičová, J., Pigott, K., Wells, B., & Peppé, S. (2004). “Temporal markers of prosodic boundaries in children's speech production,Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34, 1736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Demuth, K., & McCullough, E. (2009). “The prosodic (re)organization of children's early English articles,Journal of Child Language, 36, 173200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Farnetani, E., Torsello, C. T., & Cosi, P. (1988). “English compound versus non-compound noun phrases in discourse: an acoustic and perceptual study,Language and Speech, 31, 157180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fletcher, J. (1987). “Some micro and macro effects of tempo change on timing in French,Linguistics, 25, 951967.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fox, J., & Weisberg, S. (2011). An R companion to applied regression, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage. URL: Scholar
Fry, D. B. (1958). “Experiments in the perception of stress,Language and Speech, 1, 126152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gerken, L. A. (2006). “Decisions, decisions: infant language learning when multiple generalizations are possible,Cognition, 98, B67B74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ghosh, P. K., & Narayanan, S. S. (2009). “Closure duration analysis of incomplete stop consonants due to stop-stop interaction.Journal of the Acoustical Society of America Express Letters, 126, EL1EL7.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Goldman Eisler, F. (1968). Psycholinguistics: Experiments in spontaneous speech. London and New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Hayes, B. (1995). Metrical stress theory: Principles and case studies. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Katz, W. F., Beach, C. M., Jenouri, K., & Verma, S. (1996). “Duration and fundamental frequency correlates of phrase boundaries in productions by children and adults,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 99, 31793191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Klatt, D. H. (1975). “Vowel lengthening is syntactically determined in a connected discourse,Journal of Phonetics, 3, 129140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Klatt, D. H. (1976). “Linguistic uses of segmental duration in English: acoustic and perceptual evidence,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 59, 12081221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kuznetsova, A., Brockhoff, P. B., & Christensen, R. H. B. (2016). “lmerTest: tests in linear mixed effects models,” R package version 2.0-33, URL Scholar
Lee, S., Potamianos, A., & Narayanan, S. (1999). “Acoustics of children's speech: Developmental changes of temporal and spectral parameters,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 105, 14551468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lehiste, I. (1972). “The timing of utterances and linguistic boundaries,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 51, 20182024.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lenth, R. V. (2016). “Least-square means: the R package lsmeans,Journal of Statistical Software, 69, 133. <doi: 10.18637/jss.v069.i01>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Liberman, M., & Prince, A. (1977). “On stress and linguistic rhythm,Linguistic Inquiry, 8, 249336.Google Scholar
MacWhinney, B., & Osser, H. (1977). “Verbal planning functions in children's speech,Child Development, 48, 978985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morrill, T. (2011). “Acoustic correlates of stress in English adjective-noun compounds,Language and Speech, 55, 167201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nespor, M., & Vogel, I. (1986). Prosodic phonology. Riverton, NJ: Foris Publications.Google Scholar
Open Science Collaboration. (2015). “Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science,Science, 349 (6251), 943951.Google Scholar
Patel, R., & Brayton, J. T. (2009). “Identifying prosodic contrasts in utterances produced by 4-, 7-, and 11-year-old children,Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 52, 790801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Patel, R., & Grigos, M. I. (2006). “Acoustic characterization of the question-statement contrast in 4, 7 and 11 year-old children,Speech Communication, 48, 13081318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Peppé, S., Maxim, J., & Wells, B. (2000). “Prosodic variation in Southern British English,Language and Speech, 43, 309334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Peppé, S., & McCann, J. (2003). “Assessing intonation and prosody in children with atypical language development: the PEPS-C test and the revised version,Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics, 17, 345354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Price, P. J., Ostendorf, S., Shattuck-Hufnagel, S., & Fong, C. (1991). “The use of prosody in syntactic disambiguation,Journal of Acoustical Society of America, 9, 29562970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Priester, G. H., Post, W. J., & Goorhuis-Brouwer, S. M. (2011). “Phonetic and phonemic acquisition: normative data in English and Dutch speech sound development,International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 75, 592596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
R Core Team. (2015). “R: A language and environment for statistical computing,” R foundation for statistical computing, Vienna, Austria. URL Scholar
Scott, D. R. (1982). “Duration as a cue to the perception of a phrase boundary,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 71, 9961007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Snow, D. (1994). “Phrase-final syllable lengthening and intonation in early child speech,Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 37, 831840.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Streeter, L. A. (1978). “Acoustic determinants of phrase boundary perception,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 64, 15821592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tang, P., Yuen, I., Xu Rattanasone, N., Gao, L., & Demuth, K. (2019). “The acquisition of phonological alternations: The case of the Mandarin tone sandhi processes,Applied Psycholinguistics, 40, 14951526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Trouvain, J., & Grice, M. (1999). “The effect of tempo on prosodic structure,” In Proceedings of the XIVth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, San Francisco, CA, Vol 2, pp. 1067–1070. Martinez: East Bay Institute for Research and Education, Inc.Google Scholar
Turk, A., & Shattuck-Hufnagel, S. (2007). “Multiple targets of phrase-final lengthening in American English words,Journal of Phonetics, 35, 445472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vogel, I., & Raimy, E. (2002). “The acquisition of compound vs. phrasal stress: the role of prosodic constituents,Journal of Child Language, 29, 225250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vorperian, H. K., Wang, S., Chung, M. K., Schimek, E. M., Durtschi, R. B., Kent, R. D., Ziegert, A. J., & Gentry, L. R. (2009). “Anatomic development of the oral and pharyngeal portions of the vocal tract: An imaging study,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 125, 16661678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wells, B., Peppé, S., & Goulandris, N. (2004). “Intonation development from five to thirteen,Journal of Child Language, 31, 749778.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wheeldon, L. R., & Lahiri, A. (2002). “The minimal unit of phonological encoding: prosodic or lexical word,Cognition, 83, B31B41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wightman, C. W., Shattuck-Hufnagel, S., Ostendorf, M., & Price, P. J. (1992). “Segmental durations in the vicinity of prosodic phrase boundaries,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 92, 17071717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wynne, H. S. Z., Wheeldon, L., & Lahiri, A. (2018). “Compounds, phrases and clitics in connected speech,Journal of Memory and Language, 98, 4558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yoshida, M., & Katz, W. F. (2004). “Children's use of prosody to identify ambiguous sets of compound nouns,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 116, 26452645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yoshida, M., & Katz, W. F. (2006). “Children's production of prosody: Disambiguating sets of compound nouns,Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 119, 34213421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yoshida, M. (2007). Children's use of prosodic information to understand and produce phrasal distinctions in American English. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Dallas).Google Scholar