Contrastive stress is an aspect of communication that can be used to highlight information, de-accent redundant information, and create distinctions between new and previously-provided information. Previous research has documented that adult speakers use relative changes in their vocal intensity, fundamental frequency (F0), and duration to mark contrastive stress in a sentence. However, less is understood about how and when children mark contrastive stress in their communication, thus the current study aims to examine a number of acoustic elements of contrastive stress in 8 to 10-year-old children. Speech samples were elicited from 20 children and analyzed to determine if the acoustic parameters of F0, intensity, and duration varied as a function of the speaking condition, speaker gender, or grammatical unit. Results of the experiment suggest that when comparing the baseline speaking condition to the speaking condition eliciting contrastive stress, significant differences were only found for the acoustic measure of mean intensity. Additionally, gender-related differences in contrastive stress were found only for the dependent measure of F0 slope, with a greater F0 slope exhibited by female speakers. All grammatical units were significantly different from one another across a number of variables, with significant interactions between baseline and target conditions and grammatical unit being analyzed. As indicated in previous research, the findings of the present study may indicate that children under 10 years of age may not have developed contrastive stress in an adult-like manner. Results may also be due to individual speaker differences, the complex nature of prosody, or measurement methodology.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





Prosody, contrastive stress, acoustic analysis, children, prosodic development