Children acquire speech sounds gradually. This gradual acquisition is reflected in
numerous aspects of speech-sound development, from an infant’s ability to distinguish
between sounds that have slight variations to the production of sounds that are
identifiably adult-like. Evidence of gradual acquisition is seen in acoustic studies of
children's speech-sound production, many of which have shown that children develop
contrasts in certain speech sounds gradually and produce intermediate stages as they
progress from incorrect to correct productions. It has also been shown that adults can
perceive these fine differences in young children’s speech. This study examined whether
experienced speech-language pathologists perceive children's consonants differently from
untrained listeners. The stimuli sets consisted of /t/-/k/ (88 tokens), /s/-/q/ (200 tokens),
and /d/-/g/ (135 tokens). Forty-two participants (21 experienced speech-language
clinicians and 21 non-clinician undergraduate students) heard consonant-vowel syllables
truncated from words produced by children ages two through five. Listeners were asked
to provide a rating of the beginning target sound using a visual-analog scale (VAS),
which contained a double-headed arrow labeled with the target sound on each side. For
example, one end was labeled “the ‘t’ sound” and the other end was labeled “the ‘k’
sound.” The rating involved clicking on the line at a location that represented the token’s
proximity to an ideal /t/ or /k/. The participants’ click locations on the VAS line are
strongly correlated with the acoustic parameters that differentiate between the endpoint
categories for a variety of contrasts for the stimuli sets. Results indicated three main
differences between the way clinicians and laypeople perceived the stimuli. First, clinicians were more willing to click closer to the ends of each scale, indicating that a
token was closer to a perfect representation of the target sound; second, clinicians had
higher intra-rater reliability than the naïve listeners; and third, clinicians showed a tighter
relationship between the acoustic properties and the VAS ratings than laypeople
University of Minnesota M.A. thesis. June 2010. Major: Speech-Language Pathology. Advisor: Benjamin Munson, Ph.D. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 61 pages, appendices A-B.
Johnson, Julie M..
The role of clinical experience in listening for covert contrasts in children’s speech..
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