Yuen, Ivan; Xu Rattanasone, Nan; Schmidt, Elaine; Macdonald, Gretel; Holt, Rebecca; Demuth, Katherine

Five-year-olds produce prosodic cues to distinguish compounds from lists in Australian English

Journal of Child Language, 48, Cambridge University Press, pp. 110-128, 2021.

Although previous research has indicated that five-year-olds can use acoustic cues to disambiguate compounds (N1 + N2) from lists (N1, N2) (e.g., ‘icecream’ vs. ‘ice, cream’) (Yoshida & Katz, 2004, 2006), their productions are not yet fully adult-like (Wells, Peppé & Goulandris, 2004). The goal of this study was to examine this issue in Australian English-speaking children, with a focus on their use of F0, word duration, and pauses. Twenty-four five-year-olds and 20 adults participated in an elicited production experiment. Like adults, children produced distinct F0 patterns for the two structures. They also used longer word durations and more pauses in lists compared to compounds, indicating the presence of a boundary in lists. However, unlike adults, they also inappropriately inserted more pauses within the compound, suggesting the presence of a boundary in compounds as well. The implications for understanding children’s developing knowledge of how to map acoustic cues to prosodic structures are discussed.