Phonological Representationsin Language Acquisition: Climbing The Ladder of Abstraction

Benjamin Munson, Jan Edwards, Mary E. Beckman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

30 Scopus citations


This article provides significant information on the development of phonological representations. Many characteristics of infant-directed speech (IDS) have been observed consistently across a range of studies in a number of languages using different methodologies. IDS relative to adult-directed speech (ADS), has a higher pitch, greater pitch range, shorter utterances, slower rate, and simpler syntax. One aspect of IDS that is relevant for the establishment of phonological representation is the observation that speech sounds in IDS are hyperarticulated relative to the forms in ADS. The detailed acoustic studies reveal children's productions of sounds that are transcribed, as substitutions for a target sound are often acoustically intermediate between and distinct from both the target sound and correct productions of the substitute. The error patterns that children with speech sound disorder (SSD) make are often very systematic, and mirror those made by younger children acquiring the same language. SSD provides an opportunity to understand the factors that contribute to variation in pronunciation while holding other factors known to affect pronunciation such as dialect and age consistent. One consistent finding is that children with SSD have poorer speech perception ability than their age peers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Laboratory Phonology
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191744068
ISBN (Print)9780199575039
StatePublished - Sep 18 2012


  • Adult-directed speech
  • Infant-directed speech
  • Phonological disorder
  • Speech perception
  • Speech sound disorder


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