Acquisition of final voicing: An acoustic and theoretical account

Jessica A. Barlow, Amanda Keare


This study evaluates an opacity effect in the productions of an English-speaking child (male, aged 2;5). Specifically, the child exhibited the adult pattern of vowel lengthening before voiced obstruents plus the developmental pattern of final-obstruent devoicing, both of which were verified with acoustic analyses. The vowel-lengthening pattern, plus evidence from morphophonemic alternations ([dɔ¢°k] ¡®dog¡¯, [dɔ¢°gi] ¡®doggie¡¯), attest to Child 1¡¯s knowledge of the voice contrast in final position. We adopt optimality theory with candidate chains (OTCC) to account for the child¡¯s productions. High-ranking markedness constraints (*V_C, prohibiting short vowels before voiced obstruents, and *C#, prohibiting final voiced obstruents) are assumed to account for the child¡¯s surface forms at Point 1. The emergence of final voiced obstruents at Point 2 is due to the simple demotion of *C#. We consider the implications of this account as they relate to phonological acquisition generally.


English L1 aquisition; final voicing; Optimality Theory; child speech

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