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Academic Paper

Title: The acquisition of newly emerging sociophonetic variation: /str-/ in American English
Author: Ben M Rutter
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Sheffield
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Phonetics; Phonology; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Eight children aged 4;1–8;1 and their primary caregivers participated in a study designed to evaluate their use of the onset cluster /str-/ in both read and conversational speech. The cluster is currently undergoing a reported sound change in many varieties of English, with the initial /s/ being retracted to [ʃ]. The study compared the initial fricative of the cluster in both the children and their mothers. Acoustic analysis was carried out in order to categorize tokens as either [s] or [ʃ] using spectral peak analysis. Results found that children as young as 5;1 were starting to exhibit the usage patterns of their mothers. The distribution of the novel variant suggests that the children may be learning this form via a process of lexical diffusion rather than by rule. Implications for the study of dialect acquisition and phonological acquisition in general are discussed.


This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 41, Issue 5.

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