An acoustic investigation of the developmental trajectory of lexical stress contrastivity in Italian

Joanne Arciuli, Lucia Colombo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


We examined whether typically developing Italian children exhibit adult-like stress contrastivity for word productions elicited via a picture naming task (n = 25 children aged 3-5 years and 27 adults). Stimuli were 10 trisyllabic Italian words; half began with a weak-strong (WS) pattern of lexical stress across the initial 2 syllables, as in patata, while the other half began with a strong-weak (SW) pattern, as in gomito. Word productions that were identified as correct via perceptual judgement were analysed acoustically. The initial 2 syllables of each correct word production were analysed in terms of the duration, peak intensity, and peak fundamental frequency of the vowels using a relative measure of contrast - the normalised pairwise variability index (PVI). Results across the majority of measures showed that children's stress contrastivity was adult-like. However, the data revealed that children's contrastivity for trisyllabic words beginning with a WS pattern was not adult-like regarding the PVI for vowel duration: children showed less contrastivity than adults. This effect appeared to be driven by differences in word-medial gemination between children and adults. Results are compared with data from a recent acoustic study of stress contrastivity in English speaking children and adults and discussed in relation to language-specific and physiological motor-speech constraints on production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-33
Number of pages12
Early online date19 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Acoustic analysis
  • Lexical stress
  • Normalised pairwise variability index
  • Prosody
  • PVI
  • Speech production


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