Foot, word and phrase constraints in first language acquisition of Spanish stress

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The present paper provides an analysis of stress acquisition in Spanish, within the framework of Optimality Theory, focusing on the earliest utterances by two monolingual Spanish children. The Spanish stress algorithm exhibits right-headedness both at word and phrase level. Leaving aside some peripheral cases which call for moraic trochees, we assume that the main core of the Spanish system relies on the syllabic trochee as the basic prosodic pattern. The children&#8217;s first twenty one-word utterances made up of trochaic patterns were phonetically analyzed for the values of amplitude, pitch, and duration. The same analysis was carried out for word combinations comprising two trochaic-shaped words, as well as for some multisyllabic words present in our corpus. All vowels were analyzed with <i>Pitchworks</i>. Our results show that Spanish children master the constraint hierarchy responsible for word and phrasal stress assignment from very early on; however, they may produce prominence in a non-standard fashion, because their command of the acoustic parameters responsible for an adult-like phonetic implementation is not yet under control. Moreover, they tend to overgeneralize the trochaic pattern to some iambic-shaped words. We suggest that all these phenomena are to be construed in terms of constraint ranking.


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