Computational simulation of CV combination preferences in babbling

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


There is a tendency for spoken consonant-vowel (CV) syllables, in babbling in particular, to show preferred combinations: labial consonants with central vowels, alveolars with front, and velars with back. This pattern was first described by MacNeilage and Davis, who found the evidence compatible with their "frame-then-content" (F/C) model. F/C postulates that CV syllables in babbling are produced with no control of the tongue (and therefore effectively random tongue positions) but systematic oscillation of the jaw. Articulatory Phonology (AP; Browman and Goldstein) predicts that CV preferences will depend on the degree of synergy of tongue movements for the C and V. We present computational modeling of both accounts using articulatory synthesis. Simulations found better correlations between patterns in babbling and the AP account than with the F/C model. These results indicate that the underlying assumptions of the F/C model are not supported and that the AP account provides a better and account with broader coverage by showing that articulatory synergies influence all CV syllables, not just the most common ones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-77
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Phonetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Mar
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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