14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999

Consonant (Vowel) Consonant Sequences in Early Words

Peter F. MacNeilage (1), Barbara L. Davis (2)

(1) Department of Psychology; (2) Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders;
The University of Texas at Austin, TX, USA

Consonant repetition ("reduplication") predominates in #CVC sequences in babbling and early words, gradually giving way to consonant variation ("variegation") with a "Fronting" pattern whereby the first consonant has a more anterior place of articulation than the second. The various reduplicative patterns are primarily attributed to a "Frame" consisting of rhythmic mandibular oscillation. Evidence, including new evidence from a case study, suggests a labial-coronal-dorsal hierarchy of consonant production difficulty. Fronting may therefore result from a tendency to begin variegated sequences with an easier consonant and continue with a more difficult one. Easier initiation may be a self organizing response to the functional load involved in interfacing the lexicon with the motor system. The heavy favoring of one particular variegated sequence, the labial-coronal sequence, in both infants and languages, suggests that it may have been a first discrete step towards increasing serial output complexity in phylogeny just as it is in ontogeny.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  MacNeilage, Peter F. / Davis, Barbara L. (1999): "Consonant (vowel) consonant sequences in early words", In ICPhS-14, 2489-2492.