The acquisition of speech rhythm by bilingual spanish- and english-speaking 4- and 5-year-old children

Ferenc Bunta, David Ingram

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    55 Scopus citations


    Purpose: In this study, the authors investigated speech rhythm acquisition by bilingual Spanish-English-speaking children, comparing their performance with functionally monolingual peers in both languages and to monolingual and bilingual adults. Method: Participants included younger children (3;9 [years;months] to 4;5.15[years;months.days]), older children (4;6.18 to 5;2), and adults (over 18 years). Twenty-six sentences were elicited and analyzed using the normalized vocalic and intervocalic Pairwise Variability Indices (PVIs) that express the level of variability in successive duration measurements, on the basis of E. Grabe and E. L. Low (2002). Results: Younger bilingual children displayed distinct speech rhythm patterns for their target languages, and they deviated from their monolingual English-speaking peers. Older bilingual children also separated speech rhythm by language, and differences between older bilingual children and their monolingual peers speaking English were also found. Younger and older bilingual children differed on the vocalic PVI, but not the intervocalic PVI, providing partial support for age differences. Bilingual adults showed separation of their languages and performed similarly to their monolingual peers. Conclusion: Bilingual children show distinct speech rhythm patterns for their target languages but with some early equal timing bias that diminishes over time, on the basis of the vocalic measurements. Overall, the vocalic PVI is more robust than the intervocalic PVI, but further research is necessary.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)999-1014
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Aug 1 2007


    • Bilingual phonology
    • English
    • Spanish
    • Speech rhythm

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language
    • Speech and Hearing


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