Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:


Still Needed:


Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington

Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Influence of L1 Syllable Structure on L2 of Two-Year-Old
Question: Hi,

I am a Japanese mother of a two-year-old daughter. We live in Japan
and she goes to a local nursery school, 8:30am to 6pm, five days a
week. She does not learn English there, but I hope my daughter gets
familier with English so I started to play English videos made for little
children, about 1hour, about 5 days a week, since she was half a

Now she started to repeat words heard from the videos, but I started
to notice that her word pronunciation is always CVCV structured. For
example, ''clock'' is like ''kurokku'' and ''fish'' is like ''fishu''.

When I watch the videos with her, I always pronounce the words as
they are pronounced in the video (I am near-native). And no one but
me speaks to her in English, so there is no chance that she hears
wrongly pronounced English words.

Japanese is a CVCV structured so I understand that would occur to
those who has acquired Japanese, but I wonder if two-year-olds'
pronunciation has already shaped to their native languages, and will
not accept second language-peculiar pronunciation (CVC).

I would appreciate any comments or references I can turn to.

Thank you,

Mikiko Tsumura

Reply: Children tend to start with CV structures and then acquire more complex syllable structures as their first language acquisition progresses. A two-year-old English speaker will usually not have progressed much beyond CV and CVC structures, so it sounds as if your daughter is pretty much on track.

Just an anecdote. When our oldest child was 35 months old he had not yet acquired initial consonant clusters but was moving in that direction. He pronounced initial /s/ + nasal (m,n) clusters as an aspirated /p/ or /t/ followed by a strongly nasalized vowels. All the features of the cluster were there; they were just redistributed to fit his level of syllable structure development. One day I snapped my fingers and said snap. He tried to snap his and said, quite clearly, "Snap." I asked him, "Can you snap your fingers?" and he tried again and said what I'll represent orthographically as "tamp," a strongly aspirated /t/ followed by a strongly nasalized vowel. Within about a month, he was saying "snap" and "smile" with clear initial clusters. I'm guessing that his assumption of CVCV structure is what led him to redistribute features as he did, till he understood that CNV clusters also existed.
Reply From: Herbert Frederic Stahlke      click here to access email
Date: 03-May-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Influence of L1 Syllable Structure on L2 of Two-Year-Old    Madalena Cruz-Ferreira     (03-May-2013)
  2. Re: Influence of L1 Syllable Structure on L2 of Two-Year-Old    Robert A Papen     (03-May-2013)
  3. Re: Influence of L1 Syllable Structure on L2 of Two-Year-Old    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (03-May-2013)
  4. Re: Influence of L1 Syllable Structure on L2 of Two-Year-Old    Steven Schaufele     (06-May-2013)
  5. Re: Influence of L1 Syllable Structure on L2 of Two-Year-Old    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (09-May-2013)

Back to Most Recent Questions