27 Nov 2001
Ben Matthews (Queen Margaret University College)
On Variability and the Acquisition of Vowels in Normally Developing Scottish Children (18-36 months) The acquisition of vowel systems of American and RP accents of English have been studied in increasing detail over recent years, but no studies have been undertaken of the acquisition of the Scottish vowel system, which is radically different from other vowel systems of English. This talk presents a longitudinal study of 7 Scottish children, aged 18 to 36 months during the data collection period. Recordings took place in a naturalistic setting, using a standard set of toys and books as stimuli. These were obtained on a monthly basis over a period of one year. Analysis focused on 3 sessions for each child, at 4 month intervals. Analysis consisted mainly of transcription analysis. Individual patterns of vowel production showed a great deal of variability, both among tokens of individual words, and in terms of systematic development across children. Transcription analysis revealed certain vowels (such as /¬ / in FOOT and GOOSE) which were consistently less adult-like than others within each child's individual sessions. The theoretical distinction between vowels and approximants (i.e. liquids and glides) was also addressed, and investigated in detail. Both /l/ and /r/ were frequently vocalised, and often had a large effect on the accuracy of adjacent vowels. Patterns also emerged showing that /j/ and /w/ vary between consonantal realisations and vocalic realisations. General developmental trends were for Scottish English identified, but the findings highlight variable patterns of development as well as casting doubt on the theoretical status of corner vowels.