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The effects of inventory on vowel perception in French and Spanish: an MEG study.
Production studies have shown that speakers of languages with larger phoneme inventories expand their acoustic space relative to languages with smaller inventories [Bradlow, A. (1995). A comparative acoustic study of English and Spanish vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 97(3), 1916-1924; Jongman, A., Fourakis, M., & Sereno, J. (1989). The acoustic vowel space of Modern Greek and German. Language Speech, 32, 221-248]. In this study, we investigated whether this acoustic expansion in production has a perceptual correlate, that is, whether the perceived distance between pairs of sounds separated by equal acoustic distances varies as a function of inventory size or organization. We used magnetoencephalography, specifically the mismatch field response (MMF), and compared two language groups, French and Spanish, whose vowel inventories differ in size and organization. Our results show that the MMF is sensitive to inventory size but not organization, suggesting that speakers of languages with larger inventories perceive the same sounds as less similar than speakers with smaller inventories. bl.
The acquisition of prosodic word structures in Spanish by monolingual and Spanish-German bilingual children. This article examines the constraints on Prosodic Word production in Spanish by three monolingual and three Spanish-German bilingual children from the beginning of word production until 2;2. It also considers the relationship between Prosodic Words and Phonological Phrases, and in the case of monosyllabic words, it takes into consideration syllable structure (i.e., presence or absence of codas), in order to ascertain the importance of foot binarity in early child speech. Although the preferred Prosodic Word shape is that of a trochee, there appear a few monosyllables, consisting of CVC (or CV), which are produced earlier by the bilinguals than by the monolinguals. The minimality constraint is violated by the production of CV forms. Maximality constraints are observed for a very short time, as unfooted syllables appear very soon, especially in the data of the monolinguals. However, it takes several more months until Spanish children are able to produce Prosodic Words containing two feet, whereas Phonological Phrases constituted by two disyllabic Prosodic Words are produced earlier by some children. It is proposed that such data can be optimally treated by means of constraints, and their relevance to the question of whether prosodic structure is acquired bottom-up is briefly discussed. ls.
Grammar and frequency effects in the acquisition of prosodic words in European Portuguese. This paper investigates the acquisition of prosodic words in European Portuguese (EP) through analysis of grammatical and statistical properties of the target language and child speech. The analysis of grammatical properties shows that there are solid cues to the prosodic word (PW) in EP, and the presence of early word-based phonology in child speech shows that EP children are aware of these cues. It is thus hypothesized that grammatical properties could play a role in the development of the PW by promoting the early production of the different word shapes found in the language. The analysis of statistical properties of the input, namely word shape frequencies in adult speech and child-directed speech, shows that they constrain early word shapes in child speech in ways similar to recent reports on other languages: a fairly high frequency of monosyllabic shapes, and especially of monosyllabic CV shapes, in the input agrees with the production of subminimal words in child speech; a fairly high frequency of trisyllabic and larger shapes in the input (adult speech in particular) matches the early development of words larger than a binary foot. These patterns, together with the co-occurrence of truncation to subminimal shapes in the initial and later stages, as well as the presence of prosodic fillers regardless of word size, support the claim that early words in EP are not constrained by minimality or maximality requirements. The potential interaction of grammar and frequency effects in PW acquisition is discussed in the light of the present findings and comparable data available in the literature for English, French, Spanish and Catalan. ls.