Publications by authors named "Robert Mayr"

5 Publications

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Bilingual phonological development across generations: Segmental accuracy and error patterns in second- and third-generation British Bengali children.

J Commun Disord 2021 Sep-Oct;93:106140. Epub 2021 Jul 4.

Department of Child and Family Studies, Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services, California State University, Los Angeles, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90032, United States of America. Electronic address:

Introduction: While developmental norms for speech sound development have been widely reported for monolingual children, and increasingly for bilingual children, little is known about speech sound development across different generations of children growing up in heritage language settings. The purpose of the present study was to gain a better understanding of inter-generational differences in the phonological development of British Bengali children.

Methods: Typically-developing second-generation and third-generation Bengali heritage children living in Wales (n=19), aged between 4 and 5 years, participated in a picture-naming task in Sylheti and English. The single-word speech samples were transcribed phonetically and analyzed in terms of consonant and vowel accuracy measures, and error patterns. Subsequently, logistic mixed-effects regression models were fitted to identify the factors that predict accurate speech patterns in the children's productions.

Results: The results revealed high levels of accuracy in consonant and vowel production by both sets of children, particularly in English. On Sylheti consonants, second-generation children significantly outperformed third-generation children, however only on language-specific sounds. In contrast, generation was not a significant predictor for accuracy on English consonants, but all children performed better on shared sounds than on English-specific categories, and on stops than affricates. The third-generation children exhibited a greater number of error types in Sylheti than the second-generation children, and more common replacement of Sylheti dental stops with alveolars.

Conclusion: The results suggest that third-generation children have less developed pronunciation patterns in the heritage language, but not the majority language, than their age-matched second-generation peers, however only on language-specific sounds. These findings indicate that differentiating between the phonological norms of monolingual and bilingual children may not be clinically sufficiently sensitive, at least in the minority language, and that more fine-grained language use variables, such as the generation to which a bilingual child belongs, need to be considered.
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July 2021

The Effects of Home Language and Bilingualism on the Realization of Lexical Stress in Welsh and Welsh English.

Front Psychol 2019 22;10:3038. Epub 2020 Jan 22.

School of Welsh, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.

This study investigates effects of long-term language contact and individual linguistic experience on the realization of lexical stress correlates in Welsh and Welsh English. To this end, a production study was carried out in which participants were asked to read out Welsh and English disyllabic words with stress on the penultimate syllable, placed within carrier phrases. Recordings were made of the productions of Welsh and English target words, by two groups of Welsh-English bilinguals differing in home language, as well as the productions of English target words by Welsh English monolinguals and speakers of Southern Standard British English (SSBE). Acoustic measures were taken of fundamental frequency (f0) and intensity ratios of stressed and unstressed vowels, duration of stressed and unstressed vowels, and duration of the post-stress consonant. The results of acoustic comparisons of Welsh English with SSBE and Welsh revealed that SSBE differs from the other groups in all measures of lexical stress. Welsh and Welsh English, however, show considerable phonetic overlap, albeit with language-specific differences in two of the five measures (unstressed vowel duration, intensity ratio). These findings suggest cross-language convergence in the realization of lexical stress in Welsh and Welsh English disyllabic words with penultimate stress. Individual linguistic experience, in turn, did not play a major role in the realization of lexical stress in these words. Bilinguals did not differ from monolinguals when speaking English, and home language also had no effect on any measure. This suggests that other factors must be responsible for the observed patterns. We discuss the possibility that the varieties of Welsh and Welsh English spoken in this community function as a sign of regional or peer group identity, rather than as markers of linguistic experience.
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January 2020

Bilingual Speech Sound Development During the Preschool Years: The Role of Language Proficiency and Cross-Linguistic Relatedness.

J Speech Lang Hear Res 2018 10;61(10):2467-2486

California State University, Los Angeles.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate typical Spanish-English speech sound development longitudinally in a group of bilingual preschoolers enrolled in a Head Start Program and to examine the extent to which such development is linked to language proficiency. The study also aimed to identify whether speech development is related cross-linguistically and to improve our understanding of error patterns in this population.

Method: Thirty-five bilingual preschool children produced single-word speech samples in Spanish and English both at the beginning of their first and their second year in a Head Start Program. Conversational samples in both languages were also collected at these data points to calculate mean length of utterance in words (MLUw) and thus assess the children's linguistic proficiency. The phonetically transcribed speech samples were compared over time in terms of segmental accuracy measures and error pattern frequencies. Correlation analyses were run to examine the relation between segmental accuracy measures across languages and between speech sound production and MLUw.

Results: One-way within-subject analysis of variance revealed significant improvements in accuracy over time in both languages, but not always for cross-linguistically unshared segments, nor for all consonant manner classes. Overall error rates decreased over time in both languages; although, certain error types showed no change. Cross-linguistic interactions were low in both languages. The results also revealed significant cross-linguistic correlations in segmental accuracy between Spanish and English, as well as between MLUw and speech sound production in both languages on a range of measures, with language-specific differences in Year 2 of the Head Start Program, but not in Year 1.

Conclusions: This study is the first to document developmental changes in the speech patterns of Spanish-English bilingual preschool children over 1 year. Accuracy rates improved significantly in both languages, suggesting that enhanced exposure to the majority language at school may not impede phonological development in the home language. Bootstrapping effects were particularly pronounced on cross-linguistically shared sounds, which suggests that the same underlying skills are utilized in both languages, whereas language-specific singleton consonants and consonant clusters did not appear to benefit from exposure to the other language. The results also suggest an intricate link between phonological skills and morphosyntactic performance at the early stages of development, but a more complex pattern thereafter with differences that may be based on language-specific phonological properties.
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October 2018

Cross-linguistic interaction in trilingual phonological development: the role of the input in the acquisition of the voicing contrast.

J Child Lang 2015 Sep 21;42(5):1006-35. Epub 2014 Oct 21.

California State University,Los Angeles,USA.

This paper examines the production of word-initial stops by two simultaneous trilingual sisters, aged 6;8 and 8;1, who receive regular input in Italian and English from multiple speakers, but in Spanish from only one person. The children's productions in each language were analyzed acoustically and compared to those of their main input providers. The results revealed consistent cross-linguistic differences by both children, including between Italian and Spanish stops, although these have identical properties in the speech of Italian- and Spanish-speaking adults. While the children's English stops were largely target-like, their Italian stops exhibited non-target-like realizations in the direction of English, suggesting interactions. Interestingly, their Spanish productions were largely unaffected by cross-linguistic interactions, with target-like voiceless stops, and voiced stops predominantly realized as spirants. These findings raise interesting questions about phonological development in multilingual settings and demonstrate that the number and type of input providers may crucially affect cross-linguistic interactions.
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September 2015

Asymmetries in phonological development: the case of word-final cluster acquisition in Welsh-English bilingual children.

J Child Lang 2015 Jan 14;42(1):146-79. Epub 2014 Feb 14.

Cardiff Metropolitan University.

This study provides the first systematic account of word-final cluster acquisition in bilingual children. To this end, forty Welsh-English bilingual children differing in language dominance and age (2;6 to 5;0) participated in a picture-naming task in English and Welsh. The results revealed significant age and dominance effects on cluster acquisition, with greater overall accuracy on the English clusters. Interestingly, although the Welsh-dominant children outperformed the English-dominant ones on the Welsh clusters, they did not exhibit a concomitant lag on the English clusters. It is argued that this asymmetry is a direct reflection of the sociolinguistic situation in Wales with English as the majority language and Welsh the minority language. The study also revealed accelerated rates of acquisition for English clusters compared with age-matched monolinguals reported elsewhere (Templin, 1957), thereby supporting claims that bilingual contexts may have a facilitative effect on phonological acquisition (Goldstein & Bunta, 2012; Grech & Dodd, 2008).
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January 2015