Ambient language effects on babbling: pitch contours in Swedish and American 12- and 18-month-olds  

Eeva Koponen

Fonetik 2002, the XVth Swedish Phonetics Conference, Fysikcentrum, Stockholm, May 29 - 31, 2002. Quartely Progress and Status Report (Department of Speech, Music and Hearing and Centre for Speech Technology, KTH, Stockholm) 44: 13-16.


Results of a previous listening test have indicated that tonal word accent contours present in 12- and 18-monthers' babbling may provide listeners with perceptually reliable cues to ambient language. In particular, Swedish 18- and, to some extent, 12-monthers were judged to produce more grave accent-like vocalizations than were American English children in the same age-groups. The present experiment was carried out to evaluate the phonetic substance underlying these listener judgments. It was expected that utterances that had been judged as grave in the listening test would display F0 characteristics typical of Swedish grave accent words, i.e., two-peaked contours with a marked second tone-peak. F0 measurements were made of the same disyllabic babbles that had been used in the listening test. Results indicated that vocalizations that had been judged as having the grave accent in the listening test differed from those that had not been judged as having the grave accent. Specifically, vocalizations judged as grave displayed higher F0 in the second vowel of the disyllabic vocalizations. Essentially, then, the result supported the view that Swedish 18-monthers (and, to a lesser extent, 12-monthers) may just be beginning to gain command of the tonal aspect of the word accent contrast, and that the relevant tonal contour can be reliably detected in listening.

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