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An acoustic investigation of traces to children’s early omitted English articles: a case study

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posted on 2022-08-17, 01:27 authored by Anwar AlkhudidiAnwar Alkhudidi

Young children are more likely to omit unstressed function words when they do not form a disyllabic foot with the previous word e.g., Tom [pushes]Foot the dog than when they form a disyllabic foot with the previous word e.g., Tom [pushed the]Foot dog (e.g., Gerken, 1991, 1994; Demuth & McCullough, 2009). However, previous research indicates that when children appear to omit weak syllables in content words, they leave imperceptible prosodic traces to the omitted syllables (Carter & Gerken, 2004) suggesting that the omission of unstressed syllables in content words is incomplete. However, it is not clear whether children also leave traces to the other type of unstressed syllables i.e, function words. This thesis, therefore, explored whether there is an acoustic trace to children’s omitted function words, namely English articles. To this end, a longitudinal speech corpus of one English-speaking child between 1;5 to 1;9 (years; months) (Demuth et al., 2006) was screened for three types of utterances in which articles were 1) produced e.g., find the dog; 2) omitted from obligatory context e.g., find dog; or 3) not required (control) e.g., find dogs. From these utterances, three durations were measured that could be indicative of a trace and compared across the utterance types using regression analyses. Results show no evidence of an acoustic trace to omitted articles which may imply that children delete the entire syllable instead of leaving a prosodic trace. A discussion of the implications of this finding was provided for phonological/ prosodic accounts of unstressed syllable omission and for speech production processes in general.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Literature review -- 3. Methodology -- 4. Results -- 5. Discussion -- References -- Appendices


A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Research

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, 2020

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Titia Benders

Additional Supervisor 1

Katherine Demuth


Copyright: Anwar Alkhudidi Copyright disclaimer:




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