LINGUIST List 13.1052

Tue Apr 16 2002

Diss: Psycholing: Carter "Integrated Acoustic..."

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  1. allcarte, Psycholing: Carter "Integrated Acoustic and Phonological..."

Message 1: Psycholing: Carter "Integrated Acoustic and Phonological..."

Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 17:53:09 +0000
From: allcarte <>
Subject: Psycholing: Carter "Integrated Acoustic and Phonological..."

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: University of Arizona
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 1999

Author: Allyson Carter 

Dissertation Title: 
An Integrated Acoustic and Phonological Investigation of Weak Syllable Omissions 

Linguistic Field: Psycholinguistics

Dissertation Director 1: LouAnn Gerken
Dissertation Director 2: Michael Hammond
Dissertation Director 3: Merrill Garrett

Dissertation Abstract: 

This dissertation is an in-depth study of weak syllable omissions from
polysyllabic words, a phenomenon seen in three quite different
English-speaking populations: young children with normally developing
language, older children with specific language impairment (SLI), and
adults with types of non-fluent aphasia. The omissions result in forms
such as 'nana' for 'banana', or 'raffe' for 'giraffe'.

I first review the main theoretical accounts of weak syllable
omissions, which implicate input (perception), production, or grammar
(phonology). After concluding that perceptual accounts are inadequate,
I propose four studies based on production and grammar accounts of
omissions by the populations of interest. Specifically, the studies
ask two questions: Are syllables truly deleted? And what is the
mechanism behind syllable omissions? Three hypotheses address these
questions. The Structure Reduction Hypothesis states that syllables
are truly deleted, whereas the Generic Trace and Variable Trace
Hypotheses hold that omitted syllables leave a measurable trace. On
the Generic Trace Hypothesis, the trace is of generic length,
independent of the subsyllabic information, while on the Variable
Trace Hypothesis, variation in subsyllabic length affects the

In three experiments, children with normal language and SLI were asked
to repeat sentences that included words with strong-weak stress
patterns and weak-strong-weak pattterns, which children reduced to
strong-weak outputs. Acoustic analyses of the non-reduced and reduced
outputs revealed that children left an acoustic trace in the latter,
in the form of durational lengthening. Lengthening did not vary based
on the subsyllabic content of the omitted syllable, supporting the
Generic Trace Hypothesis. In addition, the child studies and a word
repetition study of adults with aphasia revealed certain phonological
factors bearing on the rates of syllable omissions.

Based on the four studies, I propose a preliminary model of weak
syllable omission that contains factors triggering omissions, multiple
paths from the phonology to the phonetic realization, and a
developmental continuum of strategies used by children to reach the
adult target. In concluding, I suggest that instrumental acoustic
analyses are a crucial component to any study addressing variation in
children's productions, and I suggest implications of the research for
current discussions of the phonetics-phonology interface.

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