Volume 7, Issue 4 (1978)
Phonological Development in Young Children
S.M. Tse, D. Ingram
When the young child undergoes the important task of acquiring a first language, he or she must among other things acquire the sound pattern or ‘phonology’ of the adult language. TO do this, the child must acquire the ability both to produce sound (phonetic ability) and to use the contrastive elements or ‘phonemes’ of that language (phonemic ability). Regarding the first of these, i.e., phonetic ability, it is clear that some sounds are more difficult than others, such as the th sounds of English which are usually acquired quite late by children, sometimes as late as eight years of age. Also, however, the child needs to acquire the phonemes of the language, i.e., those elements that serve to cause a difference in meaning between words, such as the difference between the word bit and pit which is signaled by the phonemes /b/ versus /p/. Other sounds may not be phonemic, such as the difference between the ‘p’ in pit versus the one in spit where the former has an accompanying breathy quality that does not occur in the latter word. These sounds differ but do not contrast because one can predict where each occurs, with the breathy ‘p’ occurring at the beginning of words and the other after ‘s’. Some languages, however, like Hindi, use these two sounds as separate phonemes, so that pairs of words exist like bit and pit where the only difference in the sounds to signal a difference in meaning is the breathiness on the ‘p’. Since each language selects different sounds to function as its phonemes,the child must determine these for each language acquired.
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