Bilingual development of theta in a child

Elena Babatsouli 1
  • 1 Institute of Monolingual and Bilingual Speech, Chania, Greece
Elena Babatsouli


There are issues concerning the bilingual development of a marked consonant in the literature that need to be clarified. While it is known that input frequency has a facilitative effect on monolingual development, its effects on bilingual development are not clear. Here, a child’s dense, longitudinal speech data from age 2;7 to 3;11 are examined in order to study the bilingual development of a marked consonant, theta, in English and Greek. The results address several issues pertaining to monolingual and bilingual development. Theta development in the two languages is parallel: theta word-frequency reflects adult speech; theta vocabulary grows logarithmically; first accurate realizations occur in frequent words independently of their complexity; in contrast, complete acquisition first occurs in words of lower complexity independently of usage frequency; the acquisition level for all words remains at a low plateau level until ages 3;5 and 3;8, followed by a stage of acceleration of the logistic type until complete acquisition, at ages 3;10 and 3;11 for English and Greek, respectively. Because of the presence of two languages, there is a larger and more complex vocabulary across the two languages which facilitates earlier acquisition in the child than in respective monolingual norms.

  • Anthony, A., D. Bogle, T.T.S. Ingram and M.W. McIsaac. 1971. The Edinburgh articulation test. Edinburgh: E. and S. Livingstone.

  • Babatsouli, E. 2016. “Chaos in monolingual and bilingual speech”. In: Skiadas, C.H. and C. Skiadas (eds.), Handbook of applications of chaos theory. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor and Francis. 789–890.

  • Babatsouli, E. 2015. “Technologies for the study of speech: Review and an application”. Themes in Science and Technology Education 8(1). 17–32.

  • Babatsouli, E. and D. Ingram. 2015. “What bilingualism tells us about phonological acquisition”. In: Bahr, R.H. and E.R. Silliman (eds.), Routledge handbook of communication disorders. London: Routledge. 173–182.

  • Baker, E. 2015. “The why and how of prioritizing complex targets for intervention”. In: Bowen, C. (ed.), Children’s speech sound disorders (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: John Willey & Sons. 106–120.

  • Bernhardt, B.M. and J.P. Stemberger. 1998. Handbook of phonological development: From a nonlinear constraints-based perspective. San Diego: Academic Press.

  • Bills, A.G. 1934. General experimental psychology. Longmans Psychology Series. New York, NY: Longmans, Green and Co.

  • Boersma, P. and D. Weenink. 2015. Praat: Doing phonetics by computer [Computer software]. Retrieved 25 October 2015, from <>.

  • Brulard, I. and P. Carr. 2003. “French–English bilingual acquisition of phonology: One production system or two?”. International Journal of Bilingualism 7. 177–202.

  • Bunta, F., L. Fabiano-Smith, B.A. Goldstein and D. Ingram. 2009. “Phonological wholeword measures in three-year-old bilingual children and their age-matched monolingual peers”. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics 23. 156–175.

  • Chomsky, N. and M. Halle. 1968. The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row.

  • De Lange, C. 2012. “Bilingual brain boost: two tongues, two minds”. New Scientist 2863.

  • Dinnsen, D.A. 1996. “Context effects in the acquisition of fricatives”. In: Bernhartdt, B.M., B.J. Gilbert and D. Ingram (eds.), Proceedings of the UBC International Conference on Phonological Acquisition. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press. 136–148.

  • Dinnsen, D.A., S.B. Chin, M. Elbert and T.W. Powell. 1990. “Some constraints on functional disordered phonologies: Phonetic inventories and phonotactics”. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 33. 28–37.

  • Donohue, A., J. Holding and V. Jones. 1983. Dyfed screening test of articulation and language. Swansea: East Dyfed Health Authority.

  • El Lozy, M. 1978. “A critical analysis of the double and triple logistic growth curves”. Annals of Human Biology 5. 389–394.

  • Evanini, K. and B. Huang. 2012. “Automatic detection of [θ] pronunciation errors for Chinese learners of English”. In: Engwall, O. (ed.), Proceedings of the International Symposium on Automatic Detection of Errors in Pronunciation Training. June 6–8, 2012, KTH, Stockholm, Sweden. 71–74.

  • Farewell, C.B. 1976. “Some strategies in the early production of fricatives”. Papers and Reports on Child Language Development 12. 97–104.

  • Ferguson, C.A. and C.B. Farewell. 1975. “Words and sounds in early language acquisition: Initial consonants in the first fifty words”. Language 51. 419–439.

  • Flege, J.E. 1988. “Factors affecting degree of perceived foreign accent in English sentences”. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 84. 70–79.

  • Freedman, S.E. and J.A. Barlow. 2012. “Using whole-word production measures to determine the influence of phonotactic probability and neighborhood density on bilingual speech production”. International Journal of Bilingualism 16(4). 369– 387.

  • Genesee, F. 2009. “Early childhood bilingualism: Perils and possibilities”. Journal of Applied Research on Learning 2. 19–21.

  • Goodman, J.C., P.S. Dale and P. Li. 2008. “Does frequency count? Parental input and the acquisition of vocabulary”. Journal of Child Language 35. 515–531.

  • Greenberg, J.H. 1963. “Some universals of grammar with particular reference to the order of meaningful elements”. In: Greenberg, J. H. (ed.), Universals of language. London: MIT Press. 73–113.

  • Haspelmath, M. 2006. “Against markedness (and what to replace it with)”. Journal of Linguistics 42(1). 25–70.

  • Hohenberger, A. and A. Peltzer-Karpf, 2009. “Language learning from the perspective of nonlinear dynamic systems”. Linguistics 47(2). 481–511.

  • Ingram, D. 1974. “Phonological rules in young children”. Journal of Child Language 1. 49–64.

  • Ingram, D. 1976. Phonological disability in children. London: Edward Arnold.

  • Ingram, D. 1981a. Procedures for the phonological analysis of children’s language. Baltimore, MD: University Park Press.

  • Ingram, D. 1981b. “The emerging phonological system of an Italian-English bilingual child”. Journal of Italian Linguistics 2. 955–113.

  • Ingram, D. 1988. “Jakobson revisited: Some evidence from the acquisition of Polish”. Lingua 75. 55–82.

  • Ingram, D. 1989. First language acquisition: Method, description and explanation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Ingram, D. 1992. “Early phonological acquisition: A crosslinguistic perspective”. In: Ferguson, C.A., L. Menn and C. Stoel-Gammon (eds.), Phonological development: Model, research, implications. Timonium MD: York Press. 147–158.

  • Ingram, D. 2002. “The measurement of whole-word production”. Journal of Child Language 29. 713–733.

  • Ingram, D. 2009. “Cross-linguistic phonological acquisition”. In: Ball, M.J., M.R. Perkins, N. Müller and S. Howard (eds.), The handbook of clinical linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell. 626–640.

  • Ingram, D., L. Christensen, S. Veach and B. Webster. 1980. “The acquisition of word-initial fricatives and affricates in English by children between 2 and 6 years”. In: Yeni-Komshian, G.H., J.F. Kavanaugh and C.A. Ferguson (eds.), Child phonology. (Vol. I: Production.) New York: Academic Press. 169–192.

  • Jakobson, R. 1941/1968. Child language, phonological universals and aphasia. (Transl. by A. Keiler.). The Hague: Mouton. [Original work published in 1941 as Kindersprache, aphasie und allgemeine Lautgesetze.]

  • Jusczyk, P.W. 2000. The discovery of spoken language. (2nd ed.) Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Kehoe, M. 2015a. “Cross-linguistic interaction: A retrospective and prospective view”. In: Babatsouli, E. and D. Ingram (eds.), Proceedings of the International Symposium on Monolingual and Bilingual Speech 2015, Chania, Greece. 141– 167.

  • Kehoe, M. 2015b. “When place does not fall into place: A case study of a child with diverse linguistic input”. In: Yavaş, M. (ed.), Unusual productions in phonology: Universals and language-specific considerations. New York, NY: Psychology Press. 159–182.

  • Keshavarz, M.H. and D. Ingram. 2002. “The early phonological development of a Farsi–English bilingual child”. International Journal of Bilingualism 6(3). 255– 269.

  • Kuhl, P.K. 2000. “A new view of language acquisition”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 97. 11850–11857.

  • Ladefoged, P. and I. Maddieson. 1996. The sounds of the world’s languages. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Leopold, W.F. 1949. Speech development of a bilingual child: A linguist’s record. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

  • Li, H. and A.C. Fang. 2011. “Word frequency of CHILDES corpus: Another perspective of child language features”. International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English 35. 95–116.

  • Lleó, C. and M. Kehoe. 2002. “On the interaction of phonological systems in child bilingual acquisition”. International Journal of Bilingualism 6. 233–237.

  • Luce, P.A. and D.B. Pisoni. 1998. “Recognizing spoken words: The neighborhood activation Model”. Ear and Hearing 19. 1–36.

  • Łukaszewicz, K.M. 2009. Acquisition of English dental fricatives by Polish learners of ESL. (MA thesis, University of Essex.)

  • Macken, M.A. 1992. “Where is phonology?” In: Ferguson, C.A., L. Menn and C. Stoel-Gammon (eds.), Phonological development: Models, research, implications. Timonium MD: York Press. 249–269.

  • MacWhinney, B. 2000. The CHILDES project: Tools for analyzing talk. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

  • Maddieson, I. 1984. Patterns of sounds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Maddieson, I. and K. Precoda. 1990. “Updating UPSID”. UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics 74. 104–114.

  • Major, R.C. 2001. Foreign accent: The ontogeny and phylogeny of second language phonology. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

  • Major, R.C. 2008. “Transfer in second language phonology”. In: Edwards, J.G.H. and M.L. Zampini (eds.), Phonology and second language acquisition. Philadelphia/ Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 63–94.

  • Munro, M.J. and T.M. Derwing. 2008. “Segmental acquisition in adult ESL learners: A longitudinal study of vowel production”. Language Learning 58(3). 479–502.

  • Nirgianaki, E. 2014. “Acoustic characteristics of Greek fricatives”. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 135(5). 2964–2976.

  • Ohala, J.J. 1980. “Moderator’s summary of symposium on ‘Phonetic universals in phonological systems and their explanation’”. Proceedings of the 9th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (vol. 3). Copenhagen: Institute of Phonetics. 181–194.

  • PAL (Panhellenic Association of Logopaedics). 1995. Assessment of phonetic and phonological development. Athens: PAL. (In Greek.)

  • Paradis, J. and F. Genesee. 1996. “Syntactic acquisition in bilingual children: Autonomous or interdependent?” Studies in Second Language Acquisition 18. 1–25.

  • Pettito, L.A., M.S. Berens, I. Kovelman, M.H. Dubins, K. Jasinska and M. Salinsky. 2012. “The ‘Perceptual wedge hypothesis’ as the basis for bilingual babies’ phonetic processing advantage: New insights from FNIRS brain imaging”. Brain and Language 121(2). 130–143.

  • Prather, E.M., D.L. Hedrick and C.A. Kern. 1975. “Articulation development in children aged two to four years”. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders 40. 179– 191.

  • Prince, A. and P. Smolensky. 2004. Optimality theory: Constraint interaction in generative grammar. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

  • Pye, C., D. Ingram and H. List. 1987. “A comparison of initial consonant acquisition in English and Quiche”. In: Nelson, K.E. and A. van Kleeck (eds.), Children’s language. Hillsdale, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum. 175–190.

  • Saffran, J.R., R.N. Aslin and E.L. Newport. 1996. “Statistical learning by 8-monthold infants”. Science 274. 1926–1928.

  • Sawer, J.B. 1970. “Spanish English bilingualism in San Antonio”. In: Gilbert, G.G. (ed.), Texas studies in bilingualism: Spanish, French, German, Czech, Polish, Sorbian, and Norwegian in the Southwest, with a concluding chapter on code-switching and modes of speaking in American Swedish. Berlin: de Gruyter. 18– 41.

  • Schnitzer, M.L. and E. Krasinski. 1994. “The development of segmental phonological production in a bilingual child”. Journal of Child Language 21. 585–622.

  • Schnitzer, M.L. and E. Krasinski. 1996. “The development of segmental phonological production in a bilingual child: A contrasting second case”. Journal of Child Language 23. 547–571.

  • Selinker, L. 1972. “Interlanguage”. International Review of Applied Linguistics 10. 209–231.

  • Setatos, M. 1974. Phonology of Modern Greek. Athens: Editions Papazisis. (In Greek.)

  • Slobin, D.I. 1973. “Cognitive prerequisites for the development of grammar”. In: Ferguson, C.A. and D.I. Slobin (eds.), Studies of child language development. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 175–202.

  • Smit, A.B., L. Hand, J.J. Freilinger, J.E. Bernthal, and A. Bird. 1990. “The Iowa articulation norms project and its Nebraska replication”. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders 55. 779–798.

  • Smit, A.B. 1993. “Phonologic error distributions in the Iowa-Nebraska articulation norms project: Consonant singletons”. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 36. 533–547.

  • Smith, N.V. 1973. The acquisition of phonology: A case study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Stampe, D. 1979. A dissertation on natural phonology. New York: Garland.

  • Stoel-Gammon, C. 2011. “Relationships between lexical and phonological development in young children”. Journal of Child Language 38. 1–34.

  • Templin, M. 1957. Certain language skills in children: Their development and interrelationships. (Institute of Child Welfare Monograph 26.) Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press.

  • Tracy, R. 2001. “Language mixing as a challenge for linguistics”. In: Döpke, S. (ed.), Cross-linguistic structures in simultaneous bilingualism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 11–36.

  • Verhulst, P. 1838. “Notice sur la loi que la population poursuit dans son accroissement”. Correspondance Mathématique et Physique 10. 113–121.

  • Vihman, M. 2009. “Word learning and the origins of phonological systems”. In: Foster-Cohen, S. (ed.), Language acquisition. London: Palgrave MacMillan. 15–39.

  • Weinberger, S.H. 1997. “Minimal segments in second language phonology”. In: James, A. and J. Leather (eds.), Second language: Structure and process. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 263–311.

  • Weinberger, S.H. 2014. Speech accent archive. George Mason University. <>

  • Weinreich, U. 1953. Languages in contact: Findings and problems. The Hague: Mouton.

  • Werker, J.F., D.G. Hall and L. Fais. 2004. “Reconstruing U-shaped functions”. Journal of Cognition and Development 5(1). 147–151.

  • Wester, F., D. Gilbers and W. Lowie. 2007. “Substitution of dental fricatives in English by Dutch L2 speakers”. Language Sciences 29. 477–491.

  • Wrembel, M. 2015. “Phonological development in the home language among early Polish-English bilinguals”. Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Glasgow. < HS0714.pdf>

  • Yip, V. and S. Matthews. 2007. The bilingual child: Early development and language contact. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.

Journal + Issues

Poznan Studies in Contemporary Linguistics publishes high-quality articles representative of theory-based empirical research in contemporary synchronic linguistics and interdisciplinary studies of language from various perspectives. The journal serves as a forum for modern developments and trends in linguistics, with contributions from the world’s leading linguistic labs.