Phonological variations in typically-developing Italian-speaking children aged 3;0-4;11

Annette Fox-Boyer*, Sara Lavaggi, Silke Fricke

*Corresponding author for this work


Normative data on phonological acquisition of a language are a prerequisite for evaluating children’s speech sound competences. To date, these data are not sufficiently available for Italian. This study, therefore, aimed to describe the phonological development of 183 typically developing monolingual Italian-speaking children aged 3;0–4;11 (four 6-months age bands). Participants were assessed through a picture naming task, and performances analysed in terms of number of phonological variations (Tokens), Types and percentage of occurrence of patterns, and number of infrequent variants (InfrVar) as a measure of stability in speech production. Two cut-off criteria to distinguish InfrVar from phonological patterns were applied. Results showed a gradual reduction of all measures with increasing age. Twenty-two patterns generally in line with previous Italian and cross-linguistic studies were observed, with only five patterns and two phonetic distortions occurring across all age groups. Eight patterns only emerged when applying the lower cut-off criterion, while further seven patterns only occurred with very low frequency or in isolated age groups. These findings highlight the influence of the selected cut-off criterion on the identification of patterns and raise the question of whether some patterns should rather be considered InfVar. Data on younger children are still needed to clarify whether low-frequency patterns are patterns of younger typically developing children that have almost resolved in the age groups assessed. At least half of the phonological variation Tokens fell into the category of InfrVar, indicating a need to pay more attention to this so far ignored measure.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Linguistics and Phonetics
Issue number2-3
Pages (from-to)241-259
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Research Areas and Centers

  • Health Sciences

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 206-08 Cognitive and Systemic Human Neuroscience
  • 205-20 Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

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