Speech Prosody 2012

Shanghai, China
May 22-25, 2012

Temporal Organization of Syllable Production in the Speech of Cantonese-speaking Children

Wai-Sum Lee

Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The paper investigates the temporal structures of three types of syllables, CV:, CVN, and CVV (C = [p ph ts tsph s], V: = [a.], VN = [an], VV = [ai]), in Cantonese. Results of a temporal analysis of the speech samples from two 9- to 10-year-old Cantonese-speaking children are as follows. First, the durations of the syllable-initial consonants and the following rime are not negatively correlated, as there is no temporal compensation involved within the sequence of the initial consonant and rime. It is assumed that the initial consonant and rime within a syllable are not programmed as a single articulatory unit (Lehiste [1]). The rime however has a tendency to be slightly shorter after the aspirated [pph] and [tsph] than after the unaspirated counterparts [p] and [ts]. Second, the duration of the vowel [a] of [an] and [ai] is about one half of the duration of the vowel [a:] of CV: syllables, suggesting the occurrence of compensatory shortening of the vowel duration when [a:] occurs in other syllable types. This in turn suggests that the rime [an] and the diphthong [ai] are programmed as a single articulatory unit. Third, the temporal data in this study support Lehiste's contention ([1]) that there is a closer connection between a vowel and a following consonant than between an initial consonant and a following vowel. Lastly, the patterns of temporal organization of syllable production for children are similar to those for adults, indicating that children of middle childhood at 9 to 10 years of age have acquired the adult-like temporal patterns.

Index Terms: temporal organization, syllable production, Cantonese, children of middle childhood


  1. Lehiste, I., “Temporal organization of spoken language”, in L.L. Hammerich, et al. [Ed.], Form & Substance: Phonetic and Linguistic Papers Presented to Eli Fischer-Jørgensen, 159-169. Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1971.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Lee, Wai-Sum (2012): "Temporal organization of syllable production in the speech of Cantonese-speaking children", In SP-2012, 498-501.