Computational simulation of CV combination preferences in babbling

Hosung Nam, Louis M. Goldstein, Sara Giulivi, Andrea G. Levitt, D. H. Whalen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


There is a tendency for spoken consonant-vowel (CV) syllables, in babbling in particular, to show preferred combinations: labial consonants with central vowels, alveolars with front, and velars with back. This pattern was first described by MacNeilage and Davis, who found the evidence compatible with their "frame-then-content" (F/C) model. F/C postulates that CV syllables in babbling are produced with no control of the tongue (and therefore effectively random tongue positions) but systematic oscillation of the jaw. Articulatory Phonology (AP; Browman and Goldstein) predicts that CV preferences will depend on the degree of synergy of tongue movements for the C and V. We present computational modeling of both accounts using articulatory synthesis. Simulations found better correlations between patterns in babbling and the AP account than with the F/C model. These results indicate that the underlying assumptions of the F/C model are not supported and that the AP account provides a better and account with broader coverage by showing that articulatory synergies influence all CV syllables, not just the most common ones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-77
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Phonetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Mar
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIH grants DC-00403 and DC-02717 to Haskins Laboratories. We thank Arthur Abramson, Stefan Frisch, Douglas Honorof, Khalil Iskarous, Christine Mooshammer, Aude Noiray, Kenneth J. deJong and four anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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