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An acoustic study of schwa syllables in monolingualand bilingual German-speaking children

Kehoe, Margaret

Linguistische Berichte (LB), Bd. 2019 (2019), Iss. 260: S. 5–52

4 Citations (CrossRef)

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Bibliografische Daten

Kehoe, Margaret

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There is little known on the acoustic characteristics of schwas in young children although schwa poses challenges for children in development and also in the acquisition of a second language. This study examines the acoustic correlates of schwa in German-speaking monolingual and bilingual children, aged 2;7 to 3;1. It provides acoustic data on different types of schwa syllables (schwa-only, R-colored schwa, syllabic consonants) in words of differing length (two-syllable vs. multisyllabic) and across different phrase positions (phrase-final vs. non-final), as well as examines whether bilingualism influences the production of schwa. Duration and formant frequency measures were conducted on over 700 productions of schwa syllables extracted from spontaneous speech recordings of three monolingual and three bilingual children. Results indicated significant effects of schwasyllable type on duration and formant frequency measures as well as some differences due to phrase position. There were few differences pertaining to bilingualism with the exception of an increased rate of vowel epenthesis in the production of target syllabic consonants by the bilingual children. The discussion focuses on the acoustic challenge of acquiring schwa-only in comparison to other schwa syllables, which may relate to its reduced length and its variable formant frequency realization.