An articulatory phonology account of preferred consonant-vowel combinations

Sara Giulivi, D. H. Whalen, Louis M. Goldstein, Hosung Nam, Andrea G. Levitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Certain consonant/vowel combinations (labial/central, coronal/front, velar/back) are more frequent in babbling as well as, to a lesser extent, in adult language than chance would dictate. The "Frame then Content" (F/C) hypothesis (Davis & MacNeilage, 1994) attributes this pattern to biome-chanical vocal-tract biases that change as infants mature. Articulatory Phonology (AP; Browman & Goldstein, 1989) attributes preferences to demands placed on shared articulators. F/C implies that preferences will diminish as articulatory control increases, while AP does not. Here, babbling from children at 6, 9, and 12 months in English, French, and Mandarin environments was examined. There was no developmental trend in CV preferences, although older ages exhibited greater articulatory control. A perception test showed no evidence of bias toward hearing the preferred combinations. Modeling using articulatory synthesis found limited support for F/C but more for AP, including data not originally encompassed in F/C. AP thus provides an alternative biomechanical explanation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-225
Number of pages24
JournalLanguage Learning and Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jul
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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