Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 5 May 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Effect of Temporal Variations on Phoneme Identification Skills in Children and Adults
A Comparative Study

S. Powlin Arockia Catherine, Ph.D. Candidate
S. R. Savithri, Ph.D.


The present study investigated the ability of 2 - 3 year old Kannada speaking children, and adults to identify synthetic phonemes varying in voice onset time (VOT). Four picturable (two minimal pair) words with stop consonants contrasting in voicing (labial: /b/ and /p/, velar: /g/ and /k/) in word initial position in Kannada were selected. These words as uttered by a 21-year-old female native Kannada speaker were recorded and stored onto the computer memory.

VOT was truncated and /b - p/, and /g - k/ continuum were synthesized using Praat software which was audio recorded onto a CD.

The edited tokens were presented to thirty 2 - 3 year old children and thirty adults (18 - 28 years) individually. Each group consisted of 15 males and 15 females. Children were instructed to point to the pictures placed before them as they listen to the tokens and the investigator noted their responses on a binary forced-choice scoring sheet. Adults were asked to mark their responses on a binary forced-choice scoring sheet as they heard the synthetic token. Percent identification scores were calculated.

The results indicated that the 50% crossover from voiced to unvoiced cognate occurred in the lead VOT region for children and adults, and boundary width was wider for /g - k /continuum compared to /b - p/ continuum. Phoneme boundary width was wider in children compared to adults for /g - k/ continuum. The results of the current study can be used to compare phoneme identification skills in clinical population of same age.


Speech perception refers to the processes by which humans are able to interpret and understand the sounds used in a language. Studies on speech perception have investigated the process involved in recognition of speech sounds and use this information to understand spoken language. Studies on infant speech perception postulate that the ability to perceive universal phoneme contrast is present at birth and with exposure infants loose this ability and could perceive only the native contrasts (Werker & Tees, 1984). Also cross language studies on adults demonstrated language specific perception patterns (Abramson & Lisker, 1970).

Modification of perceptual abilities takes place between infancy and adulthood. It is important to investigate and document these changes which would enlighten the perception- production relationship and to understand the perceptual abilities in clinical population. Phoneme perception ability is studied by altering the acoustic correlates that distinguishes speech sounds from one another.

Some Important Studies

In a seminal study, Lisker & Abramson, (1964) made acoustical measurements of voicing in initial stops in 11 languages. They defined voice onset time (VOT) as the time duration between the articulatory release in a stop consonant and the onset of voicing. Stop consonants in these languages were classified as long lead, short lag and long lag voicing distinctions based on VOT. In various perceptual experiments, it was found that VOT can effectively distinguish voicing in stop consonants (Yeni-Komishian, Preston & Cullen, 1967; Abramson & Lisker, 1970; Zlatin & Koenigsknecht, 1975; Savithri, 1996; Sathya, 1996) and subjects identify and discriminate differences in VOT categorically.

In the past, perception of stop consonants along VOT continuum has been studied in infants, children and adults. The early studies in children failed to see any developmental trend in perception. Winterkorn, MacNeilage & Preston (1967), using VOT continuum of /t - d/, reported that children aged 2.9 to 3.6 years could identify stop consonants similar to adults. Also, Yeni-Komishian, Preston & Cullen (1967) experimented 5 to 6 year old American English speaking children's ability to identify synthetic syllables (apical consonants /t/ and /d/) through imitation. The authors reported adult like perception in their subjects.

However, results by Zlatin & Koenigsknecht (1975), Simon & Fourcin (1978) and Williams (1977a, 1977b) indicate a development trend in VOT in English and French speaking children.

Studies in the Indian Contexts

In the Indian context, Savithri (1996), Sathya (1996), and Catherine & Savithri (2007) reported developmental trend in VOT in Kannada and Telugu speaking children. However, the voicing contrast is language related.

Studies in the past have focused on different age groups with small sample size and in different languages. The results found in one language cannot be generalized to other languages since auditory processing skills may differ with languages as the phonemic structure of languages is different.

Also normative research is required for clinical purposes in individual languages.

In this context, the present study investigated phoneme identification skills in typically developing Kannada speaking children between the age range of 2 and 3 years and compared it with adults.


Subjects: Thirty typically developing children in the age range of 2 - 3 years, and thirty adults in the age range of 18 - 28 years participated in this study. Each group included 15 males and 15 females. The children were from four play schools in Mysore and adults were bachelor degree students and volunteers. All the subjects were native Kannada speakers and from middle socio-economic status. The subjects were screened for their speech, language and hearing abilities by the experimenter and those who passed the screening were included in the study.

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Effect of Temporal Variations on Phoneme Identification Skills in Children and Adults - Comparative Study | Indianness in R. K. Narayan's Novel - The Man-Eater of Malgudi | English Vocabulary Learning Strategies Manipulated by the Students of Azad University, District 5: A Gender-oriented Study | The Impact and Relevance of Hedda Gabler in Modern Days | Search for Identity and Self in Indian Poetry in English by Women Writers | Teaching English in Minority Institutions | The Sociolinguistics and Cultural Considerations of English-Arabic Translation of Political News | Attitudinal Factor in Second Language Acquisition - An Illustrative Example from a Class in University | A Study on Emotional Skills and Adjustment towards First and Second Language Learning and Academic Achievement | Nonverbal Communication in Tamil Novels - A Book in Tamil | The Effect of Proficiency on Multilingualism, Error Finding, Social Class and Attitude in Multilingual Pre-University Mysore Students | A Review of Muzafar Desmond Tate's The Malaysian Indians: History, Problems and Future | HOME PAGE of May 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

S. Powlin Arockia Catherine, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Speech-Language Sciences
All India Institute of Speech and Hearing
Mysore - 570 006, India

S. R. Savithri, Ph.D.
Department of Speech-Language Sciences
All India Institute of Speech and Hearing
Mysore - 570 006, India

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