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Pronunciation variation in infant-directed speech: Phonetic reduction of two highly frequent words

Lahey, M., & Ernestus, M. (2014). Pronunciation variation in infant-directed speech: Phonetic reduction of two highly frequent words. Language Learning and Development, 10, 308-327. doi:10.1080/15475441.2013.860813.
In spontaneous conversations between adults, words are often pronounced with fewer segments or syllables than their citation forms. The question arises whether infant-directed speech also contains phonetic reduction. If so, infants would be presented with speech input that enables them to acquire reduced variants from an early age. This study compared speech directed at 11- and 12-month-old infants with adult-directed conversational speech and adult-directed read speech. In an acoustic study, 216 tokens of the Dutch words allemaal and helemaal from speech corpora were analyzed for duration, number of syllables, and vowel quality. In a perception study, adult participants rated these same materials for reduction and provided phonetic transcriptions. The results show that these two words are frequently reduced in infant-directed speech, and that their degree of reduction is comparable with conversational adult-directed speech. These findings suggest that lexical representations for reduced pronunciation variants can be acquired early in linguistic development
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