Characterizing Speech Sound Productions in Bilingual Speakers of Jamaican Creole and English: Application of Durational Acoustic Methods

Michelle León, Karla N. Washington*, Victoria S. McKenna, Kathryn Crowe, Kristina Fritz, Suzanne Boyce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This study examined the speech acoustic characteristics of Jamaican Creole (JC) and English in bilingual preschoolers and adults using acoustic duration measures. The aims were to determine if, for JC and English, (a) child and adult acoustic duration characteristics differ, (b) differences occur in pre-schoolers’ duration patterns based on the language spoken, and (c) relationships exist between the preschoolers’ personal contextual factors (i.e., age, sex, and percentage of language [%language] exposure and use) and acoustic duration. Method: Data for this cross-sectional study were collected in Kingston, Jamaica, and New York City, New York, United States, during 2013–2019. Par-ticipants included typically developing simultaneous bilingual preschoolers (n = 120, ages 3;4–5;11 [years;months]) and adults (n = 15, ages 19;0–54;4) from the same linguistic community. Audio recordings of single-word productions of JC and English were collected through elicited picture-based tasks and used for acoustic analysis. Durational features (voice onset time [VOT], vowel duration, whole-word duration, and the proportion of vowel to whole-word duration) were measured using Praat, a speech analysis software program. Results: JC-English–speaking children demonstrated developing speech motor control through differences in durational patterns compared with adults, including VOT for voiced plosives. Children’s VOT, vowel duration, and whole-word duration were produced similarly across JC and English. The contextual factor %language use was predictive of vowel and whole-word duration in English. Conclusions: The findings from this study contribute to a foundation of understanding typical bilingual speech characteristics and motor development as well as schema in JC–English speakers. In particular, minimal acoustic duration differences were observed across the post-Creole continuum, a feature that may be attributed to the JC–English bilingual environment. Supplemental Material:

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-83
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The first author is a recipient of the U.S. Department of Education OSEP Preparation of Special Education and Early Intervention grant that funds her doctoral studies. The second author is a lead faculty member on this grant with salary support provided. The research presented was supported by an Endowment to the Jamaican Creole Language Project and partially funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (R21DC018170-01A1). The second author also receives salary support from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (R21DC018170-01A1). This article is a component of a doctoral dissertation completed at the University of Cincinnati by the first author under the direction of the second author as PhD advisor and the remaining authors as dissertation committee members. The first author would like to acknowledge the contributions provided by Lesley Raisor-Becker, in addition to Leslie Kokotek, Megan Miller, Hailey Spencer, and other PedLLS Lab research assistants. Finally, the authors would like to thank the families, children, Laura and Richard Kretschmer, the Jamaican Language Unit, and other contributors who supported and participated in this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.


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