Prosodic characteristics of American English in school-age children

Author(s): Katsura Aoyama, Christina Akbari and James Flege

Abstract

This study investigated prosodic characteristics of American English in school-age children. Previous studies reported that children’s speech productions differed from those of adults in temporal and pitch aspects of speech prosody. The current study analyzed speech samples from 16 adults and 16 school-age children using both absolute measures (duration and fundamental frequency) and proportional measures (rhythm metrics and pitch range). The results showed differences between adults and children in absolute measures of temporal and pitch aspects of speech production, but these differences diminished in proportional measures. For temporal aspects of speech, absolute durations of children’s utterances were longer than adults’ utterances, whereas no statistically significant differences were found between adults’ and children’s rhythm metrics. Similarly, absolute fundamental frequency values were higher in children’s speech than in adults’ speech, but the pitch range did not differ between adults and children. These results suggest that children’s speech may be slower in rate and higher in pitch, but their prosodic characteristics may be similar to those of adults in the temporal and pitch aspects of speech prosody by school age.

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