Phondi: Kuniko Nielsen on the development of phonological representations


By Andries W. Coetzee
Dec 01, 2012 Bookmark and Share

Kuniko Nielsen

Kuniko Nielsen

We are fortunate to have several universities with linguistics departments here in in Southeastern Michigan. As a consequence, all of the discussion groups in our Department have frequent visitors and participants from our neighboring schools. This Friday, Professor Kuniko Nielsen (Oakland University) will present on some of her recent research that probes into the development of phonological representations during L1 acquisition. 

Professor Nielsen has been doing interesting work in the so-called "imitation paradigm" ever since her PhD thesis (UCLA, 2008). Research in the imitation paradigm investigates how language users adapt their short term phonological representations based on recent acoustic exposure. Professor Nielsen, for instance, has shown in previous research that adults lengthen their VOT values if they exposed to speech containing longer than average VOT values. In the research that Professor Nielsen will present in Phondi, she will report on the extension of this research to 5 and 8 year old children. More information, including a title and abstract, follows below.

What: Phondi Meeting

When: Friday, December 7, 1 pm

Where: Lorch Hall 473

Speaker: Kuniko Nielsen

Developmental changes in phonological representation: an investigation using the imitation paradigm

This study investigates the developmental changes in phonological representation, by examining the word- and phoneme-level specificity of phonetic imitation by children. Prevailing linguistic theories assume three levels of phonological representations: word, phoneme, and feature. Previous research suggests that phonological representations develop throughout childhood, and that phonological awareness develops from larger to smaller units (e.g., Edwards et al., 2004; Treiman & Zukowski, 1996). It has also been shown that adult speakers implicitly imitate the phonetic properties of recently heard speech (e.g. Goldinger, 1998). More recently, Nielsen (2011) showed that imitation can be generalized at phoneme- and feature-level yet can also be word-specific at the same time, indicating that three levels of phonological representations simultaneously contribute to the observed patterns of phonetic imitation. In order to test whether young children manifest similar patterns of imitation and specificity as adult speakers, an experiment with a modified imitation paradigm with a picture-naming task was conducted, in which participants' VOT was compared before and after they were exposed to target speech with artificially increased VOT. Our preliminary results reveal that the two groups of children (5 year-olds and 8 year-olds) show comparable degree of overall imitation, while word-and phoneme-level specificity was greater for 8 year-olds than 5 year-olds. These results provide support for the continued development of phonological representations.