Key aspects of prosody have been studied in adults for a number of years; however, less attention has been paid to the acoustic patterns of prosody in children. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to evaluate how a group of 20 pre-adolescent children use prosody to mark contrastive stress compared to a control group of adult speakers. It was of interest to investigate whether the children's use of prosody differed between boys and girls or the part of speech being emphasized. The prosodic patterns of contrastive stress were evaluated in terms of duration, fundamental frequency, and intensity change relative to a baseline production of the same sentence. In addition, a perceptual experiment was conducted to determine if listeners could reliably identify the gender of the child speakers when listening to sentence length utterances. Statistical analysis indicated that there were some differences in the duration and fundamental frequency change as a function of speaker age and the part of speech being emphasized, with relatively minor differences between genders. However it remains unclear if the acoustic differences found in this study were substantial enough to cause a salient perceptual difference. Although previous studies have identified increases in frequency, intensity, and duration as cues of contrastive stress, the present findings revealed patterns that did not consistently conform to these expectations. Limitations in the task design, individual speaker characteristics, and also the type of acoustic measure used may have contributed to these results.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





prosody, children, gender, fundamental frequency, intensity, duration