The phonetic basis of early speech acquisition in Korean
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The study investigated relative roles of production and perception mechanisms in early speech acquisition in Korean. Previous studies investigating this issue have been based on Indo-European languages. Data from a non Indo European language such as Korean, which has different phonemes from English, can confirm the presence of universal production patterns as well as potential perceptual influences from the ambient language. Speech of six Korean-learning infants (KI) was studied longitudinally (8 24 months). These data were compared with English-learning infant (EI) data for the babbling period as well as with Korean infant-directed speech (IDS). In addition, IDS was compared with Korean adult-directed speech (ADS) to explore whether the two types of speech styles show similar characteristics in Korean. Similar patterns for segments and utterances were found between KI and EI, supporting the assertion that early infant speech is primarily based on production system factors. However, KI showed more frequent language specific consonants such as fortis and long medial consonants as well as low central vowels and VCV utterances than EI, indicating that characteristics of the Korean language also influenced the speech patterns of KI. IDS was found to be different from ADS in most aspects, while being similar to KI infant speech, suggesting that Korean IDS may be adjusted to the needs of infant learners. Inter-syllabic patterns were observed in all speech types, supporting the claim that they are fundamental aspects of the production system. However, intra-syllabic patterns were only present in both groups of infants’ babbling, suggesting that this aspect of frame dominance is strongly present in infants’ pre speech babbling, but may not be predominant in adult languages. Intra-syllabic patterns in infants’ words could be also influenced by the ambient language patterns. Results of this study suggest that infants’ early speech is primarily determined by production factors, but their production patterns are influenced by the characteristics of their ambient language in some aspects during babbling. IDS may facilitate infant acquisition by producing input that is matched to the infant production system and is also perceptually distinctive.