Newborn babies have been shown to be sensitive to the speech melody of the language that they hear: they recognise the word stress patterns of their mother''s language, and they are sensitive to the rhythm of that language (for instance, babies can distinguish what has been called the ''Morse Code'' rhythm of Germanic languages and the ''Machine Gun'' rhythm of Romance languages). Thus, already in the first year of life, infants seem to know a lot about how their ambient language sounds. Nevertheless, it is not known when and how they use this knowledge in their own speech production. This project investigates infants'' babbling (adult sounding syllable sequences) and their early word productions in the first two years of life. The main research question is: when and how do they produce stress (the relative prominence of syllables) and when do we find evidence that they adopt the speech rhythm of the ambient language? This is investigated by means of an acoustic analysis of children''s speech and an analysis of the speech of their primary caretakers, which will represent the adult target model. A second aim is to investigate whether congenitally hearing impaired children who received a cochlear implant very early in life show similar acoustic correlates of stress marking in their speech and display similar rhythmicity as their hearing peers.
BOF, Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds van Universiteit Antwerpen