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Title: The early acquisition of segment specification : the evolution of the child's phonological system, in particular the development of the articulatory and categorial gesture, with reference to English and Dutch
Author: Heijkoop, Anita C.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1998
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This thesis is concerned with early phonological development and segmental representation, on the basis of spontaneous longitudinal data. In part I, the assumptions underlying the research here are formulated on the basis of a brief discussion of existing literature regarding the child's innate endowment to acquire language, early cognitive development, the origin and character of pre-phonological structure, the nature of an appropriate perception/production model and the role of phonological processes in the acquisition process. Also, main topics in the acquisition literature relevant to phonology are evaluated, such as word patterns, consonant harmony and reduplication. Early phonological acquisition is considered to be a cognitive process, constructivist in nature, with some innate constraints that function as attention-biases. It is assumed that the child has a perception-based representation, constructed on the basis of his own abilities, and that subsequent representational redescription results in his phonological representation. In part II, the data of five Dutch and two English children between 1;0, 10-1;6.4, recorded regularly during the period of a year, constituted the basis for the reconstruction of the evolution of the phonological system of each child. To this end, the phonological contrasts for each recording session for each child were established on the basis of the child's phones, diachronic development of the child forms and their relation to the target word, following clinical methods. Clear trends were identified that characterised the acquisition scenarios of all children studied (see below). From the data analysis, the development of place of articulation and the recurrent CV (CV ...) structure also emerged as outstanding features of the child's early output. The observed highly variable place realisation in the child forms can be accounted for as a direct consequence of the state of development of the child's phonological system, i.e. the contrasts present. Early specification of labial and subsequent alveolar/velar variation explain the variability observed in terms of non-contrastive variability and labial filling-in. The application of the assumption of coronal underspecification to child language is investigated and was subsequently rejected on the basis of its incorrect predictions and the unsound evidence quoted. In the data, there was strong support for the CV sequence as basic unit. The child can apply a variety of strategies that ensure CV compliance, such as inserting dummy consonants, filling-in of non-specified slots, breaking-up and reduction of clusters, and interaction across words. Consonant harmony and reduplication can also be regarded as protostructure strategies. Overall, the CV structure embodies a basic structure that enables the child to classify perceptual information in a functionally relevant way.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available