Variability in /s/ Production in Children and Adults: Evidence from Dynamic Measures of Spectral Mean

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Previous research has found developmental decreases in temporal variability in speech. Relatively less work has examined spectral variability, and, in particular, variability in consonant spectra. This article examined variability in productions of the consonant /s/ by adults and by 3 groups of children, with mean ages of 3;11 (years;months), 5;04, and 8;04. Specifically, it measured the influence of age, phonetic context, and syllabic context on variability. Spectral variability was estimated by measuring dynamic spectral characteristics of multiple productions of /s/ in sV, spV, and swV sequences, where the vowel was either /a/ or /u/. Mean duration, variability in duration, and coarticulation were also measured. Children were found to produce /s/ with greater temporal and spectral variability than adults. Duration and coarticulation were comparable across the 4 age groups. Spectral variability was greater in swV contexts than in sV or spV sequences. The lack of consistent effects of phonetic context on spectral variability suggests that the developmental differences were related to subtle variability in place of articulation for /s/ in the children's productions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-69
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Children
  • Coarticulation
  • Spectral mean
  • Variability


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