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Suprasegmental Characteristics of Spontaneous Speech (Hazan et al., 2016)

journal contribution
posted on 23.02.2022, 18:33 by Valerie Hazan, Outi Tuomainen, Michèle Pettinato
Purpose: This study investigated the acoustic characteristics of spontaneous speech by talkers aged 9–14 years and their ability to adapt these characteristics to maintain effective communication when intelligibility was artificially degraded for their interlocutor.
Method: Recordings were made for 96 children (50 female participants, 46 male participants) engaged in a problem-solving task with a same-sex friend; recordings for 20 adults were used as reference. The task was carried out in good listening conditions (normal transmission) and in degraded transmission conditions. Articulation rate, median fundamental frequency (f0), f0 range, and relative energy in the 1- to 3-kHz range were analyzed.
Results: With increasing age, children significantly reduced their median f0 and f0 range, became faster talkers, and reduced their mid-frequency energy in spontaneous speech. Children produced similar clear speech adaptations (in degraded transmission conditions) as adults, but only children aged 11–14 years increased their f0 range, an unhelpful strategy not transmitted via the vocoder. Changes made by children were consistent with a general increase in vocal effort.
Conclusion: Further developments in speech production take place during later childhood. Children use clear speech strategies to benefit an interlocutor facing intelligibility problems but may not be able to attune these strategies to the same degree as adults.


This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, Grant RES-062-23-3106 (awarded to Valerie Hazan).