[Prosodic structure and consonant development across languages, Part II. Segmental and prosodic interactions]
This paper relates consonant development in first-language acquisition to the mastery of rhythmic structure, starting with the emergence of the “core syllable” in babbling. We first review results on very early phonetic development that suggest how a rich hierarchy of language-specific metrical structures might emerge from a universal developmental progression of basic utterance rhythms in interaction with ambient language input. We then describe salient differences in prosodic structures across the languages being studied in a cross-language investigation of phonological development, in which we are eliciting and analyzing recordings from hundreds of children aged two years through five years who are acquiring Cantonese, English, Greek, or Japanese. Finally, we present examples of how patterns of disfluent consonant production differ across children acquiring the different languages in this set, in ways that seem to be related to the differences in metrical organization across the languages.