ERIC Number: EJ1146601
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017
Abstractor: As Provided
Are Homophones Acoustically Distinguished in Child-Directed Speech?
Language Learning and Development, v13 n3 p262-273 2017
Many approaches to early word learning posit that children assume a one-to-one mapping of form and meaning. However, children's early vocabularies contain homophones, words that violate that assumption. Children might learn such words by exploiting prosodic differences between homophone meanings that are associated with lemma frequency (Gahl, 2008). Such differences have not yet been documented in children's natural language experience and the exaggerated prosody of child-directed speech could either mask the subtle distinctions reported in adult-directed speech or enhance them. This study measured the duration, vowel characteristics, and pitch information of homophone tokens taken from a corpus of child-directed speech. The results show that homophone meanings are acoustically distinct in child-directed speech as a function of lemma frequency, particularly in utterance-final positions. Such distinctions may allow children to maintain separate phonetic representations of homophones until their cognitive and linguistic abilities are robust to violations of the one-to-one bias.
Descriptors: Auditory Perception, Acoustics, Vowels, Intonation, Children, Speech Communication, Cognitive Mapping, Computational Linguistics, Adults, Interpersonal Communication, Suprasegmentals, Phonetics, Metacognition, Databases, Statistical Analysis, Language Usage
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (NIH)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: 1R15HD07751901