A Comparison of Features of Speech Across 24 Languages Throughout the world, most children accomplish the ability to speak intelligibly as a natural and effortless part of their daily lives. Some children do not and require additional input from speech-language pathologists (SLPs). Many children seen by SLPs in English-speaking countries speak many other languages in addition to English. When ... Article
Article  |   March 01, 2007
A Comparison of Features of Speech Across 24 Languages
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Sharynne McLeod
    Charles Sturt University, Australia
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Articles
Article   |   March 01, 2007
A Comparison of Features of Speech Across 24 Languages
Perspectives on Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations, March 2007, Vol. 14, 12-16. doi:10.1044/cds14.1.12
Perspectives on Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations, March 2007, Vol. 14, 12-16. doi:10.1044/cds14.1.12
Acknowledgment
A portion of this paper was based on McLeod, S. (2005, November). The international perspective on speech acquisition. Invited presentation at the annual ASHA Convention, San Diego, CA.
Building Blocks
Following are building blocks of speech acquisition for 24 languages.
English
Language: English: General American (GAE)
Source*: Smit (2007)
No. of consonants: 24
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 18–19 monophthongs + 3–4 diphthongs
Syllables: C(0–3)VC(0–4)
Consonant clusters: Syllable-initial & syllable-final
Tones: No
Stress: Stress-timed language
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 31
Language: English: Received Pronunciation (RP)
Source*: Howard (2007)
No. of consonants: 24
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 12 monophthongs + 8 diphthongs
Syllables: C(0–3)VC(0–4)
Consonant clusters: Syllable-initial & syllable-final (no /r/final clusters)
Tones: No
Stress: Stress-timed language
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 2 Arabic
Language: Jordanian Arabic
Source*: Dyson & Amayreh (2007)
No. of consonants: 28
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 6 monophthongs + 2 diphthongs
Syllables: C(1–2)V(1–2)C(2–0)
Consonant clusters: Mainly syllable-final
Tones: No
Stress: Syllables are light or heavy
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 6
Language: Lebanese Arabic
Source*: Khattab (2007)
No. of consonants: 27
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 12 monophthongs + 5 diphthongs
Syllables: C(1–2)V(1–2)C(0–2) + more syllable types are possible due to vowel elision
Consonant clusters: Yes
Tones: No
Stress: Trochaic word-stress pattern
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 2
Cantonese
Language: Cantonese
Source*: So (2007)
No. of consonants: 19
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 11 monophthongs (8 are contrastive) + 11 diphthongs
Syllables: (C)V(C)
Consonant clusters: Labialised velars /kw, kwh/may be treated as clusters
Tones: Yes - 9 tones
Stress: Syllable-timed language
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 7
Dutch
Language: Dutch
Source*: Mennen, Levelt, & Gerrits (2007)
No. of consonants: 23
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 14 monophthongs + 3 diphthongs
Syllables: C(0–3)VC(0–4)
Consonant clusters: Syllable-initial & syllable-final
Tones: Standard Dutch - no; Southern Dutch - yes
Stress: Stress-timed language
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 4
Filipino
Language: Filipino
Source*: Malabonga & Marinova-Todd (2007)
No. of consonants: 23
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 5 monophthongs + 6 diphthongs
Syllables: CVC(0–1)
Consonant clusters: None (only in borrowed words)
Tones: No
Stress: Stress used to differentiate meaning
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 2
Finnish
Language: Finnish
Source*: Kunnari & Savinainen-Makkonen (2007)
No. of consonants: 13
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 8 monophthongs + 18 diphthongs + 20 two vowel combinations
Syllables: C(0–2)V(V/C)C(0–1)
Consonant clusters: Rare (mainly in borrowed words)
Tones: No
Stress: Fixed stress
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 28
French
Language: French
Source*: Rose & Wauquier-Gravelines (2007)
No. of consonants: 21
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 14 vowels (France) 19 vowels (Quebec)
Syllables: C(0–3)VC(0–3)
Consonant clusters: Syllable-initial & syllable-final
Tones: No
Stress: Stress is related to the syntactic structure of the utterance
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 7
German
Language: German
Source*: Fox (2007)
No. of consonants: 23
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 15 monophthongs + 3 diphthongs
Syllables: C(0–3)VC(0–3)
Consonant clusters: Syllable-initial & syllable-final
Tones: No
Stress: Stress-timed language
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 17 Greek
Language: Greek
Source*: Mennen & Okalidou (2007)
No. of consonants: 31
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 5 monophthongs
Syllables: C(0–3)VC(0–1)
Consonant clusters: 65 syllable-initial clusters (no syllable-final)
Tones: No
Stress: Main stress falls on one of the last three syllables
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 7
Hungarian
Language: Hungarian
Source*: Zajdó (2007)
No. of consonants: 25
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 14 monophthongs with 9 vowel qualities
Syllables: C(0–3)VC(0–3)
Consonant clusters: 50 word-initial CC clusters, 5 word-initial CCC clusters, 150 word-final CC clusters, 18 word-final CCC clusters
Tones: No
Stress: Typically uses first-syllable stress
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 8
Hebrew
Language: Israeli Hebrew
Source*: Ben-David & Berman (2007)
No. of consonants: 23
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 5 monophthongs + several word-final diphthongs
Syllables: C(0–2)VC(0–2)
Consonant clusters: Wide variety in syllable-initial & syllable-final
Tones: No
Stress: Mainly word-final stress
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 6
Japanese
Language: Japanese Source*: Ota & Ueda (2007)
No. of consonants: 15
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 10 monophthongs
Syllables: C(j)VVC
Consonant clusters: Two element syllable-initial /j/clusters only
Tones: Lexical pitch accent language
Stress: No lexical stress
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 18
Korean
Language: Korean
No. of consonants: 19
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 7 monophthongs + 10 diphthongs
Syllables: C(0–1)VC(0–1)Consonant cluster s: Only intersyllabic. No syllable-initial or syllable-final
Tones: No
Stress: Stress on first syllable
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 18
Maltese
Language: Maltese
Source*: Grech (2007)
No. of consonants: 22
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 11 monophthongs + 7 diphthongs
Syllables: C(0–3)VC(0–2)
Consonant clusters: Syllable-initial & syllable-final
Tones: No
Stress: Long vowels are stressed. Stress on the last syllable
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 3
Norwegian
Language: Norwegian
Source*: Kristoffersen (2007)
No. of consonants: 22
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 19 vowels + 3 diphthongs
Syllables: C(0–3)VC(0–2)
Consonant clusters: Syllable-initial & syllable-final
Tones: Lexical tones differentiate meaning
Stress: Uses primary, secondary or no stress
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 3
Portuguese
Language: Portuguese
Source*: Yava_ & Mota (2007)
No. of consonants: 19
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 12 monophthongs + 14 diphthongs
Syllables: C(0–2)VC(0–2)
Consonant clusters: Syllable-initial
Tones: No
Stress: Stress usually on the penultimate syllable
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 18
Putonghua
Language: Putonghua
Source*: Hua (2007)
No. of consonants: 22
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 9 monophthongs + 9 diphthongs + 4 triphthongs
Syllables: C(0–1)VC(0–1)
Consonant clusters: None
Tones: Yes - 4 tones
Stress: Weak stress is essential prosodic feature
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 11
Sesotho
Language: Sesotho
Source*: Demuth (2007)
No. of consonants: 40 (including 1 click)
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 9 monophthongs
Syllables: (C)(G)V; mostly CV
Consonant clusters: Syllable-initial with glides
Tones: Yes - 2 tones
Stress: Lengthen the penultimate syllable of a phonological phrase
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 11
Spanish
Language: Spanish
Source*: Goldstein (2007)
No. of consonants: 18
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 5 monophthongs
Syllables: C(0–2)VC(0–2)
Consonant clusters: A large number of syllable-initial clusters and abutting pairs
Tones: No
Stress: Syllable-timed. Stress on the penultimate syllable of words ending in vowels or final syllable in other words
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 12
Thai
Language: Thai
Source*: Lorwatanapongsa & Maroonroge (2007)
No. of consonants: 44 consonant forms & 21 consonant sounds
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 18 vowel forms + 15-18 diphthongs + 3 triphthongs
Syllables: CV, VC, CVV, CVC
Consonant clusters: 15 syllable-initial clusters
Tones: Yes - 5 tones
Stress: Syllable-timed language
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 3
Turkish
Language: Turkish
Source*: Topba° (2007)
No. of consonants: 21
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 8 monophthongs
Syllables: C(0–1)VC(0–2)
Consonant clusters: Syllable-final
Tones: No
Stress: Syllable-timed language. Stress usually falls on the last syllable
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 14
Vietnamese
Language: Vietnamese
Source*: Hwa-Froelich (2007)
No. of consonants: 24
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 11 monophthongs + diphthongs + triphthongs
Syllables: C(0–1)w(0–1)V(1–2)C(0–1)
Consonant clusters: None
Tones: Yes - 6 tones
Stress: Three stress levels: loud, medium and weak
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 0
Welsh
Language: Welsh
Source*: Munro, Ball, & Müller (2007)
No. of consonants: 25
No. of vowels/diphthongs: North: 13 monophthongs + 13 diphthongs. South: 11 monophthongs + 8 diphthongs
Syllables: C(0–3)VC(0–2)
Consonant clusters: Syllable-initial & syllable- final
Tones: No
Stress: Word stress is regularly on the penult
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 3
Zaptoec
Language: Zaptoec
Source*: Stemberger & Lee (2007)
No. of consonants: 28
No. of vowels/diphthongs: 6 monophthongs + 9 diphthongs
Syllables: Minimum = V; Maximum = CCGVVVCG
Consonant clusters: Syllable-initial. Syllable-final consist of consonant + glide
Tones: Yes - 4 tones
Stress: The root-final syllable is generally stressed
No. of studies of speech acquisition: 4
The source for the data comes from a chapter written by the acknowledged author. Their chapters appear in the following book: McLeod, S. (Ed.). (2007) . The international guide to speech acquisition. Clifton Park, NY: Thomson Delmar Learning. Full referencing details for each chapter were not included in order to conserve space, but can be obtained from the author at smcleod@csu.edu.au.
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