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Modeling and Directed Influence in Preschoolers (Eaton & Bernstein Ratner, 2013)

journal contribution
posted on 18.12.2021, 00:35 by Catherine Torrington Eaton, Nan Bernstein Ratner
Purpose: To explore the effect of modeling and explicit elicitation of slow and accurately produced speech in typically developing preschool children. Optional phonological reductions (e.g., deleted final stops) and changes in speech rate were examined in response to an adult conversational speaker’s speech style.
Method: Forty 3- and 4-year-olds (20 each) were tested in 3 tasks: (a) immediate repetition of a model, (b) spontaneous speech, and (c) directed speech style (cueing to correct “sloppy” speech). In Task 1, half of each group heard fast and hypoarticulated versus slow and hyperarticulated speech for a between-group response-to-model comparison. Tasks 2 and 3 were compared within subjects.
Results: Task 1 demonstrated that both age groups aligned with the speaker’s rate and phonological variants usage when repeating a model. Tasks 2 and 3 revealed that 4-year-olds varied phonological reduction patterns according to the task demands, whereas 3-year-olds maintained consistent patterns of usage. In addition, neither group successfully realigned with the rapid speech rate in Task 3.
Conclusions: These results contribute to an evidence base supporting the practice of modeling slow and clear speech to children with various production disorders. Further research is needed to explore the cognitive–linguistic processes underlying alignment before findings are applied to clinical populations.


We are grateful to the National Science Foundation (Grant BCS0745412) for funding this study as part of a research assistantship.