Word structure in early Quechua speech: Coarticulation and inflectional morphology
Evidence from acoustic and articulatory phonetics increasingly suggests that morphological structure is reflected in spoken language patterns. For child language, this interaction between word structure and speech production has the potential to shed considerable light on the status of children's early word forms - but the topic remains underexplored in child speech. How do children analyze the internal structure of morphologically complex words throughout childhood? To answer this, the current
... study measured the coarticulation patterns of bilingual Quechua-Spanish children (5-10 years) and adults. Coarticulation was measured acoustically in two word environments, within morphemes and across morpheme boundaries. Both child and adult participants distinguished coarticulatorily between the word environments, but they did so in different ways. Children differentiated between environments via a combination of duration and coarticulation while adults consistently coarticulated more in shorter duration sequences. Additionally, the children's speech patterns, but not the adults', were sensitive to prosodic structure: children produced increasingly shorter phones in words with more syllables. It was suggested that the difference between adults and children could be attributable to adults' faster speaking rate and increased dominance in Quechua. Future work is needed to determine if young children's speech patterns reflect prosodic planning, morphological planning, or both.