The acquisition of coda consonants by Catalan and Spanish children: Effects of prominence and frequency of exposure

Joan Borràs-Comes 1  and Pilar Prieto 2
  • 1 Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Departament de Traducció i Ciències del Llenguatge, Barcelona, Spain
  • 2 Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Departament de Traducció i Ciències del Llenguatge, Barcelona, Spain

Abstract

One of the challenges of child language research is to identify the relevant factors that play a role in the acquisition course of a particular linguistic feature. This article analyzes the role of stress, word position, and word length in the acquisition of coda consonants by Catalan and Spanish children. The fact that the two languages differ substantially in their coda distribution (e.g., stressed word-final codas are more frequent in Catalan than in Spanish) will allow us to test the potential effects of coda distribution in the target language on early coda production. Sixteen Catalan-dominant and Spanish-dominant two-year-olds from the Barcelona area participated in two elicitation tasks with both novel and familiar words of different phonological shapes. Coda productions were assessed in stressed vs. unstressed syllables, in word-medial vs. word-final syllables, and in monosyllables vs. polysyllables. Results showed that the distributional difference between coda consonants in the two languages has crucial effects on the children's coda production. That is, Catalan-dominant children produce significantly more stressed word-final codas than Spanish-dominant children. This result lends support to the idea that when prominence is held equal, as in a controlled experiment, there are still crosslinguistic differences in coda production that are consistent with the frequency distribution of coda consonants in the respective languages, which means that children are very closely attuned to the frequency patterns of prosodic structure in the input language and are aware of their specific distributions across the lexicon.

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