While I was studying an infant's transcript, I realized that he deleted the [l] sound in "alma" [alma], a word in Turkish meaning "do not take". When he deleted the sound, the word became [a:ma]. There is another word; "ama" [ama] in Turkish meaning "but". These two words become similar unless he changes any sound. However, the infant utters them differently after deleting the sound. I wonder whether the infant delibaretely changes the first sound of "ama" meaning "do not take" to show that they are different words. Does he mentally try to show that he knows that they are different words and he cannot only utter the [l] sound?

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    I'm finding your question a bit confusing. 1) Orthography means nothing here, it's completely irrelevant. This child can't read. 2) When you say "the two words are uttered differently"--Are "ama" and "a(l)ma" pronounced differently by adult Turkish speakers or by the child? In what way are they pronounced differently? It would be more helpful if you could try to write the pronunciations of these words. – Askalon Feb 5 '12 at 17:03
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    After reading it again, it sounds to me like you're saying the vowels in "alma" and "ama" are pronounced the same by adults, but the child changes the first vowel in "ama" to some other sound. I'm not sure whether I'm understanding it correctly or not though. – Askalon Feb 5 '12 at 17:13
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    Being voted down really does not matter, I can admit that my question is not clear and I could not manage to word my question, thanks for comments and I will think about how to rewrite it. – Serpil Karabüklü Feb 6 '12 at 16:17
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    @Askalon I should reword it as the child utters the words differently when he deletes the sound. Adult speakers do not utter the first sounds differently; however, the infant extends the [a] sound in "alma" after he deletes the [l] sound. Unless he does this, there will be no difference between two words. I know that he realizes that they are different words but I wonder that if he delibaretely changes the first sound in "alma" to show that they are different words instead of deleting the sound. I hope my question has become more clear. – Serpil Karabüklü Feb 6 '12 at 16:30
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    @Serpil So he's producing /alma/ as [a:ma] then? I'm not sure about whether a child would intentionally further alter a word to avoid homophony (as LaurenG said, his perception is assumed to be target-like and his phonemic representations of the two words are distinct, /alma/ and /ama/). Maybe it could be compensatory lengthening? I.e. when the segment /l/ deletes, the timing unit formerly associated with it attaches to /a/ instead, making [a:]. I have no idea whether that's common in children though, as certainly they delete segments all the time without compensatory lengthening. – Askalon Feb 7 '12 at 1:27

The first thing to do here is separate out a child's knowledge from their production. The most well known and regarded example of this comes from J. Berko and R. Brown (1960). "Psycholinguistic Research Methods". In P. Mussen. Handbook of Research methods in Child Development. New York: John Wiley. pp. 517–557. They give this example of a child interacting with an adult. The child has a toy fish and says /fis/, the adult then replicates the child's pronunciation and says 'is that your /fis/?' The child says 'no, it's my /fis/" (and is rather ticked off at the idiocy of the adult). When the adult finally asks if it is a /fish/ the child accepts the question.

What this example shows is that even though children often produce incorrect forms at various stages of their development this doesn't mean that the child can't perceive the difference between what they are saying at the correct form. So even though it may sound like the child in the example you give is merging two forms it is very likely that they're aware of the difference and it will resolve when they've got their tongue around that tricky consonant cluster.

  • I know that they know the difference between two words but I wonder that if he delibaretely changes the sound to show this; that he utters different words although he deletes the sound and makes the word resemble another word in Turkish. Maybe, he tries to avoid this confusion by changing the first sound after deleting the sound. – Serpil Karabüklü Feb 6 '12 at 16:34
  • But the thing is that, to the child, they are different - like with the example above the child is not really aware of their output and completely aware of the target word, so it's unlikely that the child is aware they've created a homophone (and likely that this phase will only last a little while). – LaurenG Feb 7 '12 at 0:44
  • Thanks for the answer, I do not have any further example for this pattern and I understand that some occurences for this utterance does not mean that the infant intentionally produce it. – Serpil Karabüklü Feb 7 '12 at 9:47

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