Speech Prosody 2010

Chicago, IL, USA
May 10-14, 2010

Early Acquisition of F0 Alignment and Scaling Patterns in Catalan and Spanish

Maria del Mar Vanrell (1,2), Pilar Prieto (1,3), Lluïsa Astruc (4), Elinor Payne (5), Brechtje Post (6)

(1) Departament de Traducció i Ciències del Llenguatge, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain
(2) Centre de Lingüística Teòrica, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain
(3) ICREA, Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats, Barcelona, Spain
(4) Department of Languages, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
(5) Phonetics Laboratory, University of Oxford, and St Hilda's College, Oxford, UK
(6) RCEAL, University of Cambridge, and Jesus College, Cambridge, UK

Six Catalan-speaking and six Spanish-speaking children between the ages of 24 and 48 months participated in a controlled naming task to elicit statement intonation patterns. A total of 127 utterances were prosodically analyzed using Cat_ToBI and Sp_ToBI ([1], [2]) and phonetic analyses of tonal alignment and scaling were performed. Our results show that children as young as two can finely control tonal alignment, corroborating some recent results for Catalan, Spanish, English, and European Portuguese ([3], [4], [5], [6]). Importantly, children show a more precise development of tonal alignment than tonal scaling. The f0 scaling results show that the youngest children do not produce the target L% boundary tone, confirming earlier observations on the high proportion of "level contours" in infant speech ([3], [4], [7]).

Index Terms: acquisition of intonation, infant prosody, infant intonation, Catalan language, Spanish language.


  1. Prieto, P., Aguilar, L., Mascaró, I., Torres-Tamarit, F.J. and Vanrell, M.M., "L'etiquetatge prosòdic Cat_ToBI", Estudios de Fonética Experimental XVIII: 287-309, 2009.
  2. Estebas-Vilaplana, E. and Prieto, P., "La notación prosódica en español. Una revisión del Sp_ToBI", Estudios de Fonética Experimental XVIII: 263-283, 2009.
  3. Prieto, P. and Vanrell, M.M., "Early intonational development in Catalan", Proceedings of the XVIth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, edited by Jürgen Trouvain and William J. Barry: 309-314, Pirrot GmbH: Dudweiler, 2007.
  4. Prieto, P., Estrella, A., Thorson, J. and Vanrell, M.M., "Is prosodic development correlated with grammatical and lexical development? Evidence from emerging intonation in Catalan and Spanish", Journal of Child Language, submitted.
  5. Astruc, L., Prieto, P., Payne, E., Post, B. and Vanrell, M.M., "Acquisition of tonal targets in Catalan, Spanish, and English", Cambridge Occasional Papers in Linguistics, in press.
  6. Frota, S. and Vigário, M., "The intonation of one-word and first two-word utterances in European Portuguese", paper presented at the XI International Conference for the Study of Child Language Conference (IASCL), 2008.
  7. Snow, D. and Balog, H. L., "Do children produce the melody before the words? A review of developmental intonation research", Lingua, 112: 1025-1058, 2002.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Vanrell, Maria del Mar / Prieto, Pilar / Astruc, Lluïsa / Payne, Elinor / Post, Brechtje (2010): "Early acquisition of F0 alignment and scaling patterns in Catalan and Spanish", In SP-2010, paper 839.