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Volume 55, Issue 5


The development of gender-specific patterns in the production of voiceless sibilant fricatives in Mandarin Chinese

Fangfang Li
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  • Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, T1K 3M4
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Published Online: 2017-09-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2017-0019


This article reports on the development of gender-specific speech patterns in Mandarin children’s production of voiceless sibilant fricatives. Ninety-four children aged from 2 to 5 (gender-balanced) participated in a word repetition task, producing a series of words beginning with fricatives. Their speech was digitally recorded and acoustically analyzed. The results indicate that gender-related differentiation in /s/ and /ɕ/ occurs around age 4 and becomes more robust at age 5. The differentiation occurs due to the more anterior articulation location that girls employ in their speech in comparison with boys. In addition, 10 adults (gender-balanced) were recorded to probe the origin of this gendered speech phenomenon. Unlike children, adults only show robust gender-related differences in /ɕ/. Results comparing the speech of adults and children suggest that gendered variation in /s/ is potentially the result of a chain shift initiated by gender-linked variation of /ɕ/. These results are discussed with respect to their ramifications for our understanding of the organization and acquisition of multiple components of children’s phonological capacity.

Keywords: gendered speech acquisition; voiceless sibilant fricatives; Mandarin; acoustics


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-09-01

Published in Print: 2017-09-26

Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 55, Issue 5, Pages 1021–1044, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2017-0019.

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