The development of skill in producing word-final English stops

Academic Article


  • This study examined production of word-final English /p/ and /b/ by subjects whose native language does not possess voiced stops in word-final position. Native Chinese adults resembled native English adults, native English children, and native Chinese children in producing /p/ with greater peak oral air pressure than /b/. However, unlike subjects in the other groups, the Chinese adults‘ /b/ was sometimes misidentified as /p/. This may have occurred, at least in part, because the Chinese adults produced a much smaller difference between /p/ and /b/ in labial closure duration and voicing than the other subjects. The English adults sustained voicing in /b/ significantly longer than subjects in the other three groups. To help determine the basis for this ability, the shape of oral air pressure waveforms was examined systematically. The percentage of “delayed” and “bimodal” waveforms, in which pressure stopped increasing, or decreased, prior to the release of labial constriction, was calculated for each group. Only the English adults showed more such waveforms for /b/ than /p/. Voicing continued 18 ms longer in /b/ tokens with delayed and bimodal waveforms than in tokens in which oral pressure increased continuously. The duration of closure voicing was correlated with the rate at which pressure increased in the English adults’ /b/ waveforms. Previous aerodynamic modeling has shown that delayed and bimodal waveforms may result from an active enlargement of the supraglottal cavity. This, together with the pattern of between-group differences observed here, suggests that the English adults learned to enlarge the supraglottal cavity to sustain voicing in /b/. It appears that neither the children nor the Chinese adults had as yet acquired this skill. © 1987, Acoustical Society of America. All rights reserved.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Flege JE; Mccutcheon MJ; Smith SC
  • Start Page

  • 433
  • End Page

  • 447
  • Volume

  • 82
  • Issue

  • 2