Quantifying the robustness of the English sibilant fricative contrast in children

Jeffrey J. Holliday, Patrick F. Reidy, Mary E. Beckman, Jan Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Four measures of children’s developing robustness of phonological contrast were compared to see how they correlated with age, vocabulary size, and adult listeners’ correctness ratings. Method: Word-initial sibilant fricative productions from eighty-one 2- to 5-year-old children and 20 adults were phonetically transcribed and acoustically analyzed. Four measures of robustness of contrast were calculated for each speaker on the basis of the centroid frequency measured from each fricative token. Productions that were transcribed as correct from different children were then used as stimuli in a perception experiment in which adult listeners rated the goodness of each production. Results: Results showed that the degree of category overlap, quantified as the percentage of a child’s productions whose category could be correctly predicted from the output of a mixed-effects logistic regression model, was the measure that correlated best with listeners’ goodness judgments. Conclusions: Even when children’s productions have been transcribed as correct, adult listeners are sensitive to within-category variation quantified by the child’s degree of category overlap. Further research is needed to explore the relationship between the age of a child and adults’ sensitivity to different types of within-category variation in children’s speech.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)622-637
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jun 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantifying the robustness of the English sibilant fricative contrast in children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this