15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Intersyllabic and Word-Level Regularities in Early Acquisition

Peter F. MacNeilage, Barbara L. Davis

University of Texas at Austin, USA

According to the Frame/Content (FC) theory of evolution of speech, phylogeny and ontogeny of speech have always had in common a "Motor Frame" - an elevation-depression cycle of the mandible yielding the mouth close-open alternation manifest in the CV syllable. Infants begin babbling with a phylogenetically old tendency towards reduplication of CV cycles and proceed, as in language history, towards the intercyclical
   variegation required in languages. In the process, they develop the syllable as an independent control entity. Infants initially display three biomechanically based vowel-consonant co-occurrence patterns, signifying vowel-consonant interdependence, and thus absence of syllable boundaries. However, languages for the most part do not have these vowel-consonant co-occurrences indicating, according to FC theory that syllable boundaries, and thus syllables, gradually evolved. The ontogeny of syllabification probably recapitulates this phylogeny. Early word-level phenomena, reflected in language patterns, include tendencies for word-initial vowels to be central and for utterance-terminal energy to decrease.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  MacNeilage, Peter F. / Davis, Barbara L. (2003): "Intersyllabic and word-level regularities in early acquisition", In ICPhS-15, 383-386.