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Fricative acquisition in English- and Icelandic-

speaking preschoolers with protracted
phonological development

B. May Bernhardt, Thora Msdttir, Joseph P. Stemberger, Lisa Leonhardt &

Gunnar . Hansson

To cite this article: B. May Bernhardt, Thora Msdttir, Joseph P. Stemberger, Lisa Leonhardt &
Gunnar . Hansson (2015) Fricative acquisition in English- and Icelandic-speaking preschoolers
with protracted phonological development, Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 29:8-10, 642-665, DOI:

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Published online: 18 May 2015.

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Download by: [UGR-BTCA Gral Universitaria] Date: 29 April 2017, At: 17:47
Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, August 2015; 29(810): 642665
2015 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0269-9206 print / 1464-5076 online
DOI: 10.3109/02699206.2015.1036463

Fricative acquisition in English- and Icelandic-speaking

preschoolers with protracted phonological development


School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada,
Faculty of Medicine, Division of Speech Pathology, National Hearing and Speech Institute of Iceland,
University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland, and 3Department of Linguistics, University of British
Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(Received 2 November 2014; revised 27 March 2015; accepted 29 March 2015)

Few studies have directly compared fricative development across languages. The current study examined
voiceless fricative production in Icelandic- versus English-speaking preschoolers with protracted phono-
logical development (PPD). Expected were: a low fricative match (with age effect), highest match levels for
/f/ and non-word-initial fricatives, developmentally early mismatch (error) patterns including deletion,
multiple feature category mismatches or stops, and developmentally later patterns affecting only one feature
category. Crosslinguistic differences in phonetic inventories were predicted to provide different options for
mismatch patterns, e.g. affricates in English, [+spread glottis] segments in Icelandic. For each language,
native speakers audio-recorded and transcribed single-word speech samples for thirteen 3-year-olds and ten
4-year-olds. Predictions regarding mismatches were generally confirmed. Accuracy data were partially
confirmed, /f/ having a lower match than /s/ overall for the Icelandic children. Other results reflected
language or group differences. The data provide confirmation that phonological acquisition reflects
crosslinguistic, language-specific and child-specific influences.

Keywords: Laryngeal features, manner features, phonological acquisition, phonological impairment,

place features, speech sound disorders

The fricative sound class is mastered relatively late during phonological acquisition, especially by
children with protracted phonological development (PPD; Fox & Dodd, 2001; Ingram, 1978;
Masdottir, 2008; Smit, 2007). Later mastery may reflect perceptual and/or articulatory factors.
Perceptually, small acoustic differences (in e.g. [f] versus [y], or [s] versus [S]) may be ignored
(Miller & Nicely, 1955) or considered irrelevant. Articulatorily, fricatives require precise control
of airflow to create turbulence; e.g. sibilants need a narrow central tongue groove, and voiced

Correspondence: B. May Bernhardt, School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, University of British Columbia, 2177 Wesbrook Mall,
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada. Tel: +1-604-822-2319. Fax: +1-604-822-6569. E-mail:
Fricatives in Icelandic and English 643

fricatives require that the intra-oral air pressure be delicately balanced relative to both the ambient
and the sub-glottal air pressures.
Relatively few studies have focused solely on fricative development in single languages (Gierut
& Storkel, 2002; Ingram, 1978, 1988; Ingram, Christensen, Veach, & Webster, 1980; Nicholson,
2014), and crosslinguistic comparisons of fricative development are either rare (Bernhardt,
Romonath, & Stemberger, 2014; Li, 2012) or embedded in studies of other consonants (MacLeod,
Sutton, Trudeau, & Thordardottir, 2011). Such crosslinguistic studies have shown not only
similarities in acquisition, but also differences reflecting the languages phonetic inventories,
acoustic characteristics and feature frequency. For example, MacLeod et al. (2011) found a similar
age of mastery for many fricatives, although French data showed earlier acquisition of /v/ and /z/,
and English data, of /Z/. The following paper extends the crosslinguistic dialogue on fricative
acquisition for two Germanic languages, Icelandic and English. The two languages have
overlapping but distinct speech sound inventories. In terms of voiceless fricatives, Icelandic and
English have /f/, /s/ and /y/ in common; however, post-alveolar fricatives in Icelandic are /c/ and
/x/ but in English, /S/. Only English has voiced fricatives; the Icelandic voiced cognates /v/, /D/
and // are phonetically approximants [I, D <,  rnason, 2011; Helgason, 1991/1993). The
< ] (A
current paper compares only the fricatives common to the languages (/f/, /s/ and /y/) plus /h/, a
fricative-like segment. The following sections describe the consonant and consonant feature
inventories of the two languages within a nonlinear phonological framework, and reviews
previous reports on fricative development.

Consonants and features of Icelandic and English and potential mismatch (Error) patterns
Icelandic is a North Germanic language closely related to Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and
Faroese (A rnason, 2011) whereas English is a West Germanic language, closely related to Dutch
and German. Both languages have stops, nasals, liquids and fricatives across several places of
articulation. The consonant inventories differ in several ways, however, as outlined below in terms
of feature categories [following the framework of Bernhardt & Stemberger (1998)] (Table 1).
Consonants and vowels are considered time-aligned combinations of autonomous manner,
place and laryngeal features. Only relevant features are designated for a given segment (phoneme):
e.g. the feature [Labial] is not designated as [Labial] for /s/, because the lips are phonologically
irrelevant to /s/. Both binary features (positive and negative values) and privative features (only
positive values, as discussed further below) are included in the framework.
In terms of manner of articulation, both languages have stops, nasals, fricatives, approximants/
glides and liquids (lateral, rhotic). English approximants include /w/, /j/ and // and Icelandic
approximants [I, D <,  rnason, 2011). Icelandic has a trilled /r/. Only English has affricates (/tS/,
< ] (A
/dZ/). Manner features comprise: [consonantal], distinguishing [consonantal] approximants/
glides from true consonants ([+consonantal]); [sonorant], distinguishing [+sonorant] nasals,
approximants and liquids from [sonorant] fricatives and stops; [continuant], distinguishing
[continuant] stops and nasals from fricatives, glides and liquids; [+nasal], indicating nasals; and
[+lateral], indicating /l/. The defining manner features for fricatives are: [+consonantal],
[+continuant] and [sonorant]. If fricatives are not possible in a phonological system, but some
segment must be produced (i.e. deletion is prohibited), a resulting production is typically either
[+continuant] or [sonorant]: if [sonorant] survives, an oral stop will appear for the fricative; if
[+continuant] survives, an approximant or liquid will appear. Following a parsimonious account
of feature designation, [lateral] or [nasal] are generally not specified for fricatives cross-
linguistically, unless the language contains a lateral or nasalised fricative. If a child produces a
nasal or lateral fricative for an oral fricative, the feature [nasal] or [lateral] will be designated for
that child (such productions may arise for anatomical/physiological factors, through assimilation
644 B. M. Bernhardt et al.

Table 1. Reported acquisition of fricatives, /h/ and their features by language and age.

Fricative Icelandica Englisha Features

All but /h/ Manner: [+continuant] & [sonorant]

All Laryngeal: [voiced], [+spread glottis]
f WI: 3;4 WI: 2;43;11 Place: [Labial] ([+labiodental])
WF: 2;62;11 WF: 5;6
(f:) WM: 2;62;11
y WI: 5;05;11 4;08;0 Place: [Coronal] ([+anterior], [grooved])
WF: 4;04;11
s WI: 6;06;11b 3;09;00b Place: [Coronal] ([+anterior], [+grooved])
WF: 6;06;11
(s:) (not tested to date)
S 3;67;0 Place: [Coronal] ([anterior], [+grooved])
c 3;63;11 Place: [Coronal] ([anterior], [grooved])
& [Dorsal] ([back])
x 6;06;11 Place: [Dorsal] ([+back])
h 2;03;4 3;03;5 [+continuant][+sonorant][Place]

WI word-initial; WM word-medial; WF word-final. Features are based on Bernhardt and Stemberger (1998).
90% mastery criterion: Icelandic based on Masdottir (2008) and Masdottir and Stokes (2014); English based on Smit
(2007: General American English) and Dodd, Holm, Hua, and Crosbie (2003: British English).
English-speaking children can show slight degrooving (channel widening) of /s/ and /z/ as [sy]/[zD] up to age 9 (Smit,
Hand, Freilinger, Bernthal & Bird., 1990). Ignoring slight degrooving, Masdottir (2008) reports mastery at age 3;4 for
Icelandic; counting imprecision as a mismatch, Masdottir (2014) reports a 6-year-old mastery age.

to a neighbouring nasal or lateral or idiosyncratically [Smit, Hand, Freilinger, Bernthal, & Bird,
1990]). Icelandic does have voiceless nasals and laterals, which are similar to voiceless fricatives
in their laryngeal characteristics [+spread glottis] (see below); they, like [+spread glottis] [h], may
appear as substitutions for fricatives. However, they are [+sonorant], in contrast to the fricatives,
which are [sonorant].
Place of articulation comprises both binary and non-binary (privative) features. Major place
features identify the primary articulator, and subsidiary place features the details of articulation
for that articulator. Privative major-place features for English and Icelandic include: [Labial]
(lips), [Coronal] (tongue tip and blade: dentoalveolar area) and [Dorsal] (tongue body, velar area).
Both languages have stops, nasals and approximants at three places of articulation (at least
allophonically). In both languages, /l/ is [Coronal] and in English, also [Dorsal] in syllable-final
and syllabic contexts. Rhotics in both languages are also [Coronal] (but see below). For fricatives,
major place features include: [Labial] (/f/: both languages); [Coronal] (/y/ and /s/: both; /S/:
English; and /c/: Icelandic); [Dorsal] (/x/: Icelandic). The palatal /c/ of Icelandic is both [Coronal]
and [Dorsal].
Subsidiary place features for [Labial] are [round] and [labiodental], [+round] applying to /w/
and prevocalic // (English), and [+labiodental] to /f/ (both languages), /v/ (English), and /I/
(Icelandic). For [Coronal], one subsidiary place feature is [anterior]. Contrasting values are
observed for [anterior] approximants, liquids and fricatives (both) and for Icelandic stops: the
English /j/ and // are [anterior]; /l/ is [+anterior] (both) as are the Icelandic approximant /D/ and
/r/. Fricatives show similar contrasts in the two languages: [+anterior] for /y/ and /s/ (both) plus /z/
and fricative /D/ (English); [anterior] for /S/, /Z/ (English) and /c/ (Icelandic). A second
subsidiary place features of [Coronal] concerns the width of the cross-sectional channel for the
airstream. According to Gafos (1996), the cross-sectional channel width for airflow distinguishes
Fricatives in Icelandic and English 645

the coronal fricatives, with channel width for English decreasing from /y/ (widest) to /S/ to /s/
(narrowest). He proposes the feature name [Tongue Tip Area Constriction] ([TTCA]) as a
replacement for [grooved] (Clark & Yallop, 1990; Halle & Stevens, 1979), suggesting,
irrespective of the actual tongue configuration and location of the channel across individuals,
the important parameter is the resulting channel width (Gafos, 1996, p. 161). The current paper
retains the term [grooved], but with the definition of cross-sectional channel width, [+grooved]
meaning a narrow channel or constriction area, and [grooved] a wide channel or constriction
area. Both languages have grooved and ungrooved fricatives: [+grooved] /s/ (both), /z/, /S/ and
/Z/ (English); [grooved] /y/ (both), /D/ (English) and /c/ (Icelandic). English affricates are
[anterior] and [+grooved]. According to Gafos (1996), the /y/ of Icelandic is produced closer
to the alveolar ridge than the /y/ of English, which is either on/near the teeth or interdental.
However, in both languages, the /y/ and /D/ are [grooved] ([narrow-channel]). The phonetic
inventories of both languages offer a variety of possibilities for place substitutions. In general,
when a place of articulation is not yet possible, a child will substitute the more common, less
marked (default) place features of the language [Coronal, +anterior, grooved]. However,
children, particularly those with PPD, may have different defaults, either within the [Coronal]
category, or between major place features.
Laryngeal features for the two languages delineate both the vibratory state of the glottis
([voiced]) and the aperture ([spread glottis], [constricted glottis] (the latter referring to the non-
phonemic glottal stop in both languages). For obstruents, English has both [+voiced] and
[voiced] fricatives and stops, plus allophonically conditioned post-aspirated [voiced] stops
(before stressed vowels). Icelandic has [voiced] obstruents only, with an aspirated/unaspirated
contrast for stops (including pre- and post-aspirated stops). Voiceless fricatives are [+spread-
glottis], as are /h/, post-aspirated stops (both languages), pre-aspirated stops (Icelandic) and
voiceless sonorants (Icelandic). The differences in language inventories may result in different
laryngeal feature realisations, with a higher probability of [+voiced] consonants (including
short-lag stops) appearing for English voiceless fricatives, and a higher proportion of voiceless
stops (both aspirated and unaspirated) and voiceless sonorants appearing for Icelandic
Reference was made above to possible mismatch patterns within each of the various categories
(manner/place/laryngeal). Mismatches may be observed for one or more of the feature categories.
A single feature mismatch, for example, could entail substitution of [ph] for /f/, i.e. a mismatch for
[+continuant] only. (As there are no labiodental stops in Icelandic or English, [p] is considered a
place match.) If [th] replaces /f/, both manner and place features are affected, but laryngeal
features are not. If [b] replaces /f/, manner and laryngeal features mismatch. If [d] replaces /f/, all
three categories mismatch; the manner feature [+continuant], the place feature [Labial] and the
laryngeal features [voiced] and [+spread glottis]. The feature framework provides a way to
define degree of match with the target, the output realisation (substitution) reflecting manner,
place or laryngeal mismatches or some combination of the feature categories.
Mismatches may occur above the feature level, with deletion or epenthesis of segments,
syllables or feet. English and Icelandic are similar in terms of the range of syllable structure
complexity. The languages differ somewhat with respect to stress. Icelandic has word-initial (WI)
stress except in some loan words, whereas English, although showing a major trochaic bias, also
has many words with unstressed initial syllables. Mismatches may show interactions between
features and word structure. For example, a segment may be deleted in one word position, but
its features appear in another word position. If sun /sn/ is pronounced [n], but saw /sA:/ as
[thA:], the feature [+nasal] of sun survives through migration to WI position, in spite of coda
deletion. Further discussion of developmental patterns follows below in an overview of previous
646 B. M. Bernhardt et al.

Fricative development
Previous research shows both similarities and differences in fricative acquisition between the two
languages. The languages are compared below in terms of age of acquisition findings and then
developmental mismatch patterns.
Table 1 summarises age of acquisition findings (90% mastery criterion) for voiceless fricatives
and features for typically developing (TD) Icelandic and English children. Similarities include
earlier acquisition of /h/ and labiodental /f/ (age 23 years) and later acquisition of lingual
fricatives, particularly those with contrasts in [grooved] and [anterior]. These data are congruent
with patterns observed for German TD children (Fox & Dodd, 1999). The relative articulatory
simplicity of /h/ and the visibility of the articulator in /f/ possibly favour their earlier acquisition,
even though /s/ is more frequent in Germanic languages.
In terms of word position inventory, some research indicates earlier acquisition of fricatives in
non-word-initial (non-WI) positions (Bernhardt & Stemberger, 1998; Gierut & Storkel, 2002).
Word medially, fricatives are situated between continuant segments (usually vowels), and word
finally, they follow a continuant; extension of the [+continuant] feature from the vowel could
support fricative production. Icelandic has a phonemic length difference word medially. This
length contrast might enhance acquisition of word-medial (WM) fricatives, as in Finnish, which
also has a geminate-singleton contrast and early mastery of WM geminates, even in comparison
with some WI consonants (Savinainen-Makkonen, 2000). Table 1 shows some variability with
respect to positional mastery, although a tendency for earlier acquisition of non-WI fricatives, at
least in Icelandic, with WM geminates and singletons showing equivalent age of mastery.
As noted previously, mismatch patterns can be described in terms of distance from the adult
target. The most distant mismatches reflect challenges in coordination of all feature categories
(manner, place and laryngeal), or restrictions on prosodic structure. Children with PPD tend to
show a higher proportion of more distant mismatches than typically developing (TD) children,
including developmentally uncommon lateral fricatives, voiceless nasals or ingressive airflow
fricatives (Bernhardt & Stemberger, 1998; Ingram, 1978). Closer mismatches affect single or dual
feature categories only. When mismatches are other fricatives, manner features are established,
with place and/or laryngeal features still developing in combination with those manner features. If
manner is affected, place or laryngeal features may also be affected, or may show congruence with
the target. Ingram (1978) showed a developmental progression for English fricatives reflecting
changes in degree of mismatch: first, deletion and stop substitutions, then other [+continuant]
substitutions (approximants, liquids or other fricatives); and finally, changes only in subsidiary
place ([anterior], [grooved]). Reports are similar for German and English (Bernhardt et al., 2014)
and Icelandic (Masdottir, 2008). That the final aspect of development involves tongue grooving is
expected, with lisping (tongue degrooving) a relatively common phenomenon until after age 7
(Fox & Dodd, 1999; Lohmander, Lundeborg Hammarstrom, & Persson, 2014; Smit et al., 1990).
Although previous research shows some crosslinguistic similarities in mismatch patterns,
differences in phonetic inventory also provide different mismatch options. For example, German
includes palatal and dorsal fricatives and more affricates than English and Bernhardt et al. (2014)
note that the German-speaking children produced more affricates, palatal and dorsal fricative
substitutions than the English-speaking children in their study.
The above data provide general information on fricative acquisition across languages, but
purposeful crosslinguistic comparisons of fricatives are rare (Bernhardt et al., 2014; Li, 2012).
The current study extends the study of crosslinguistic fricative acquisition in Germanic languages,
in a comparison of Icelandic- versus English-speaking children with PPD. Previous research led
to both crosslinguistic and language-specific expectations for inventory development (match
proportions) and mismatches as follows.
Fricatives in Icelandic and English 647

For inventory and features, expectations were:

1. Low fricative accuracy across groups, with an age effect but:
Following perspectives on facilitative effects of type frequency in acquisition by, e.g. Edwards,
Beckman, & Munson (2015) or Stemberger & Chavez-Peon (2014), and given equivalent general
developmental levels between language groups, higher overall fricative accuracy was expected for
English, because English has more fricative types;
2. Higher match proportions in non-WI positions across groups, but:
Higher accuracy of WM fricatives in Icelandic than in English (even given higher overall
matches in non-WI position in both languages), the WM geminate-singleton contrast in Icelandic
possibly focusing attention on that position, as in Finnish.
For individual fricatives and features, similar results across languages were expected:
(1) Higher match levels for /h/ than oral fricatives (complexity effect), and for (visible)
labiodental /f/ compared with coronals /s/ and /y/;
(2) Higher match levels for manner features in developmentally more advanced children;
(3) Higher match levels for major place than for subsidiary place features, because of the higher
precision required for subsidiary place.
Relative to mismatches, similar patterns by developmental level were expected
(1) Developmentally early patterns: deletion, multiple features mismatches (manner/place/
laryngeal) and manner mismatches.
(2) Developmentally later patterns: dual or single feature category mismatches, the latter
affecting primarily subsidiary place, especially [grooved].
Crosslinguistic differences were expected for substitutions, reflecting differences in the
phonetic inventories of the languages:
(1) English: a higher proportion of affricates, glides, and voiced obstruents.
(2) Icelandic: a higher proportion of [+spread glottis] segments: [h], preaspirated stops,
voiceless sonorants (other voiceless fricatives).

Participants included 23 Icelandic- and 23 Canadian English-speaking preschoolers with PPD.
Children were selected from a larger sample for a more general crosslinguistic study, and divided
into two matched age groups: 3-year-olds (13/23) and 4-year-olds (10/23). For Icelandic and
English 3-year-olds, mean ages respectively were 42.1 and 43.1 months, and for 4-year-olds, 53.8
months and 52.6 months (non-significant, Wilcoxons). By gender, the English-speaking groups
had three female participants each, whereas the Icelandic sample had four female 3-year-olds and
six 4-year-olds. For all children, the primary concern was phonological development. Some
children had other mild delays in language acquisition (typically involving production of
sentences/morphology) according to the following tests: for English, the Clinical Evaluation of
Language Fundamentals-Preschool (Wiig, Secord, & Semel, 1992), the Peabody Picture
Vocabulary Test (Dunn & Dunn, 1997), and a short language sample; for Icelandic, a standardised
screening tool including a language component, Islenski roskalistinn [The Icelandic Survey of
648 B. M. Bernhardt et al.

Development] (GuDmundsson & Gretarsson, 1997). All passed a hearing screening and no other
concerns were observed or reported.
Concerning phonological development, the severity of PPD was in the same general range for
each age group as demonstrated by Percent Consonant Match (PCM1) and Whole Word Match,
i.e. severe for 3-year-olds, and moderate to moderately severe for the 4-year-olds. For the
3-year-olds, PCM scores of 39.6% (English) and 33.2% (Icelandic) were not significantly different
[MannWhitney U (26) 65, p 0.336], although a similar absolute difference in WWM scores
(11.6%, English; 3.6%, Icelandic) was significant [U (26) 41, p 0.026, ES 0.48]. Comparing
age groups, the 4-year-olds for both languages had higher overall WWM and PCM scores than the
3-year-olds, but these differences were significant on KruskalWallis tests only for the Icelandic
children, i.e. for PCM, H (23) 13.846; for WWM, H (23) 11.635, both at p 0.001, and not for
English PCM, H (23) 0.385; p 0.535, and WWM H (23) 0.924, p 0.336). The Icelandic
4-year-olds also had higher WWM and PCM scores than the English children: for WWM, 19.3%
(Icelandic); 12.4% (English); for PCM, 55.8% (Icelandic); 42.2% (English). These differences
were not significant for WWM [U (16) 48, p 0.105], but PCM did show a difference
[U (20) 84, p 0.009, ES 0.57]. When outliers were removed, the observed between-language
differences in WWM (3-year-olds) and PCM (4-year-olds) disappeared, although still approached
significance in both cases (p 0.07). Removing outliers from the fricative match comparisons did
not affect results. Thus, all data were retained in this already small data set. All children were
deemed to have PPD given their levels of PCM and WWM; the Icelandic 4-year-olds were the
most advanced group, and the English 4-year-olds the least advanced (slightly higher scores than
the 3-year-old English group, but a year older); inclusion of all groups and children allowed
observation of less and more advanced patterns among fricatives.

In each country, a native speaker collected the data. Icelandic data were audio-recorded with a
Sony MiniDisc recorder (MZ-R30) and multidirectional Sony Condenser Stereo microphone
(ECM-DS70P); English data (collected in 1997) were audio-recorded with available equipment at
that time: a Marantz PMD430 cassette tape recorder, a PMZ table-top microphone and Fuji
cassettes. (The authors acknowledge that the different recording methods may have resulted in
some transcription differences between the languages but see below.) A single-word picture
naming task was used for both languages: for Icelandic, with a 110-word list developed for the
larger crosslinguistic study, and for English, the Photo Articulation Test-Revised (Lippke, Dickey,
Selmar, & Sodey, 1997: 80 words). Both tests sampled all phonemes across word positions in a
variety of word CV shapes and word lengths, and (for English) stress patterns. In general, each
child said the target word once, although occasionally, one child did not produce the word, or
another repeated the word. All data were included in the analysis because of the low number of
overall tokens and low frequency of repetitions. For the current study, singleton voiceless
fricatives common to the two languages (plus /h/) were examined across word positions: (a) WI
/f/, /y/, /s/, /h/; (b) WM (intervocalic2) /f /, /s/ (for Icelandic, both long and short WM consonants);

Percent Consonant Match equals the proportion of consonants exactly matching the adult target, with each cluster consonant counted as one
target. The term PCC is not used, because the original term was based on conversational speech samples. Whole Word Match refers to the
proportion of words that match the adult target exactly. Whole Word Match scores are reported as: for English, 6070%, age 3, 80+%, age 4
(TD, conversational speech: Schmitt, Howard, and Schmitt, 1983); for Mandarin and Kuwaiti Arabic children 80%, age 4 (TD, single word
samples: Ayyad, 2011; Bernhardt, Zhao, & Lai, 2010), and for Spanish-speaking children 58%, age 3, 85%, age 4 (TD) and 21%, age 3, 38%,
age 4 (PPD; Bernhardt, Hanson et al., 2014).
Intervocalic consonants in the two languages are viewed alternately as onsets or ambisyllabic (Bernhardt & Stemberger, 1998).
Fricatives in Icelandic and English 649

Table 2. Target words in the English and Icelandic speech samples.

L C Word-Initial Adult WM Intervocalic Adult Word-Final Adult

Eng f feathers fED}(z) elephant (?)El@fn"t knife naIf

fish fIS
fork fOk
s sandwich s~mwIt S whistle wIs" house haUs
saw sA: yes jEs
scissors sIz}z this DIs
y thumb ym teeth thi:y
h hammer h~:m}
hanger h~:}
hat h:t
house haUs
Ice f fugl bird fYk# gaffall fork kaf:at# nef nose nIE:f
fullt full fY#t graffi giraffe ci:raf:I
fiDrildi butterfly fIDrIltI slaufa bow stly:fa
s sippa skipping sIhpa lesa read lIE:sa glas glass kla:s
sol sun sou:# kyssa kiss c}Is:a grs piglet kri:s
sog saw sY:x peysa sweater p}eis:a mus mouse mu:s
risaeDla dinosaur rI:saEDla
prinsessa princess p}rInsEs:a
vasi pocket va:sI
y umalla thumb yY:mat# brauD bread pry:y
snuD pacifier s(t)nY:y
h hgt slow haixt
hattur hat hahtYD
hundur dog hYntYD

L Language (Eng English; Ice Icelandic); C Consonant. Adult adult pronunciation. The Icelandic pre-aspirated
stop is represented as, e.g. /ht/. All words had initial stress (not indicated).
There were two variants of the word umall, i.e. umalfingur, umalputti (thumbfinger). In general, each child uttered one
variant of this target word three times.

and (c) WF /f/, /s/, /y/. The words were predominantly monosyllables and trochaic disyllables,
with four trisyllabic words in Icelandic. (Table 2 presents the word lists.)
For Icelandic, two native speakers transcribed all the words independently from the digital
recordings, with 87% agreement. For the Icelandic fricatives, the lowest reliability concerned WI
glottal stops, /s/ distortions and whether there was deletion of certain low-amplitude
consonants in unstressed syllables. In those instances, consensus was reached and changes made in
consultation with both native and non-native experts in phonology and phonetics. For the English
sample, one primary researcher transcribed the sample from the original cassette recordings; a
second researcher independently transcribed 10% of the sample from the same recordings, with
85% agreement. For English fricative targets, the lowest reliability concerned the transcription of
word-final (WF) glottal stop substitutions. Later acoustic analysis on 10% of the data showed mis-
transcription concerning the presence/absence of WF glottal stops; thus, any WF glottal noted in
the transcripts was coded as a deletion for purposes of this analysis. The transcribed WI glottal
stops were also coded as deletions, because of WI ambiguity, where the default onset to a vowel-
initial word (whether or not there was a consonantal target) is a glottal stop. Word medially, glottal
stops were considered separately from deletions, because of their higher reliability in that context.
Quantitative data were obtained through computerised analysis and spreadsheet hand coding:
Phon 1.6 (Rose et al., 2006) for Icelandic and the Computerised Articulation and Phonology
Evaluation System (CAPES; Masterson & Bernhardt, 2001); Microsoft Excel 10.0 and Open
650 B. M. Bernhardt et al.

Office 3.0. All coding was confirmed by a second observer. Mismatch coding followed the
framework described in the introduction and Table 1, i.e. as single feature mismatches or
combinations of various categories (e.g. manner and place, place and laryngeal, etc.). Throughout
the analysis, WM short and long consonants were combined for Icelandic, because there were few
instances of each and patterns were very similar. Similarly, the multisyllabic words in Icelandic
were not examined separately because match data were similar for disyllabic and trisyllabic words.
For both languages, where data were specifically compared across word positions, only the two
segments common to the three word positions were evaluated (i.e. /f/, /s/). In other analyses, the
WI and WF /y/ were included. The fricative-like glottal /h/ was included in WI match analyses,
but because of its high accuracy, was excluded from other analyses. Except for higher-level
comparisons, most analyses are descriptive, because of the high variability in the data, and the
very small numbers within each cell for each individual. Where justifiable, non-parametric
statistics were used to evaluate the higher level (larger) comparisons (SPSS, 2003); parametric
statistics were precluded because of the heterogeneity of variance.

The results evaluate predictions regarding fricative production across word positions and
participant groups (language, age). The first section addresses accuracy of segments. The
subsequent sections examine individual and combined feature categories, discussing both matches
and mismatches. (Detailed data are provided in Appendices 13 by segment.)

Segmental match
Predictions regarding segmental accuracy were partially supported. As expected, match
proportions for fricatives were generally low (Table 3); however, the Icelandic 4-year-olds were
approaching mastery of /f/ and /s/ in non-WI positions (Table 4). An expected age effect was
significant for Icelandic only (statistical data presented in Table 3). By language group, the
3-year-olds did not differ significantly in match proportions, but the Icelandic 4-year-olds showed
significantly higher match levels than the English-speaking 4-year-olds; both outcomes were
consistent with the PCM comparisons noted in the Methods.
Concerning word position, higher match levels were expected for non-WI fricatives. Positional
match scores were compared for combined /f/ and /s/, the two fricatives occurring across word

Table 3. Average percent match scores by age and language for /f/, /s/ and /y/ combined.

Language Age (yr) Word-initial Word-medial Word-final Overall

b a
Icelandic 3 17.2 (21.1) 32.3 (28.6) 40.6 (25.9) 30.0 (20.9)
4b,c 57.9 (27.5) 85.4 (14.1) 65.9 (28.1) 69.7 (15.7)
Englisha 3 30.7 (30.5) 11.5 (21.9) 16.9 (18.9) 19.7 (18.3)
4c 11.6 (16.6) 19.1 (24.5) 9.8 (13.1) 13.5 (14.1)
Match scores did not differ significantly between the English groups or between the Icelandic- and English-speaking
Icelandic 3- and 4-year-old match scores differed on KruskalWallis or MannWhitney U tests: (1) overall H(23)
12.206, p 0.002; (2) Word-initial U(23) 113.5, p 0.002; ES 0.75; Word-medial U(23) 123.0, p 0.001,
ES 0.64; Word-final H(1) 97.0, p 0.045, ES 0.42 (the latter not significant after Bonferroni correction).
The 4-year-old groups differed significantly on match scores (KruskalWallis): (1) overall H(20) 14.42, p 0.001;
(2) Word-initial H(1) 9.55, p 0.002; (3) Word-medial H(20) 13.44, p 0.001; and (4) Word-final H(1)
(H(20) 12.47, p 0.001.
Fricatives in Icelandic and English 651

Table 4. Match proportions (%) by segment, word position, age and language.

Consonant Language Age (years) Word-initial Word-medial Word-final

f Icelandic 3 12.5 30 42
4 64.5 88 100
English 3 43.6 23 38
4 30 44 40
s Icelandic 3 17.9 36 42
4 75 84 80
English 3 14.3 15 11
4 0 30 4
y Icelandic 3 18.6 41
4 37.1 46
English 3 14.3 17
4 5.3 0
h Icelandic 3 64.1
4 93
English 3 84.9
4 90

Figure 1. Match (accuracy) proportions across word positions, ages and language for /f/ and /s/ combined; /y/ was not
included in this comparison because it does not occur word medially in Icelandic; results were similar, however, if word-
initial and word-final /y/ were included.

positions in both languages (Figure 1). For Icelandic, non-WI fricatives showed a significantly
higher match for the 3-year-olds [Ws 6(13), p 0.028, ES 0.61] and a near-significant trend in
the same direction for the 4-year-olds [Ws 25(10), p 0.063, ES 0.316]. For the English-
speaking 3-year-olds, there was a near-significant trend in the opposite direction; WI match levels
were slightly higher than those for non-WI fricatives [Ws 7(13), p 0.065, ES 0.51) and there
were near-equivalent match levels across positions for the English 4-year-olds (p 0.223).
Predictions regarding individual segments were also only partially supported. As expected,
the fricative-like /h/ had highest match proportions (12/12 comparisons, Table 4), with the
652 B. M. Bernhardt et al.

English-speaking children showing mastery by age 3 and the Icelandic children at age 4. Among
the fricatives, /f/ was expected to show the highest match scores. This was confirmed for both
English cohorts across word positions, but only for the Icelandic 4-year-olds in non-WI positions
(Table 4). Rank order of match by fricative within word position was as follows (ignoring
differences in match proportions between segments of 6% or less):
(1) Icelandic, age 3: WI, WF: /f/ /y/ /s/; WM /f/ /s/
(2) Icelandic, age 4: WI: /s/ 4 /f/ 4 /y/; WM /f/ /s/; WF /f/ 4 /s/ 4 /y/.
(3) English, ages 3 and 4: WI, WF /f/ 4 /y/ /s/; WM /f/ 4 /s/.

Feature development
Segmental mastery entails matches for all features. On the way to mastery, individual features of a
target segment may match or not match the target. The subsequent analyses describe feature
category matches and mismatches, beginning with manner, the key category for sound class
In terms of expectations for the study, children with more advanced development were expected
to show relatively high accuracy for manner features, i.e. fricatives would appear in place of other
fricatives. For children with more severe PPD, deletion and stop substitutions were expected to be
frequent, i.e. a lack of match for manner.
Figures 24 portray outputs for fricative targets descriptively by word position, language and
age; the first column displays the proportion of fricative outputs (i.e. matches for manner,
including both full segmental matches and substitutions affecting only place and/or laryngeal
features) and the remaining columns, various mismatch types: deletion (or glottal stop), stops,
[+continuant] [+sonorant] [h], other sonorants and affricates.

Figure 2. Word-initial fricative outputs (manner category or deletion) in descending order of frequency for /f/, /s/ and /y/
combined. Glottal stops were counted as deletions. A negligible number of clusters also appeared as outputs. The Icelandic
4-year-olds had a 58% match level word initially and thus mismatch proportions are based on smaller numbers than for the
other groups.
Fricatives in Icelandic and English 653

Figure 3. Word-medial fricative outputs (manner or deletion in descending order of frequency for short and long /f/ and /s/
combined. Deletion and glottal stop insertion were not considered equivalent word medially.

Figure 4. Word-final fricative outputs (manner category or deletion) in descending order of frequency for /f/, /s/ and /y/
combined. Glottal stops were counted as deletions word finally.

In terms of manner features, all participant groups showed higher match levels than indicated
by their segmental match levels, i.e. mismatches sometimes concerned place or laryngeal features.
In accordance with predictions for developmental advancement, the Icelandic 4-year-olds
demonstrated mastery of the fricative category (over 80% match for manner features).
654 B. M. Bernhardt et al.

The Icelandic 3-year-olds showed developing skill for the manner category, with over 60% match
for non-WI manner features, although still less than 50% match word initially. The positional
differences matched results for segmental matches discussed above and predictions concerning the
earlier acquisition of fricative manner features in non-WI positions. Across languages, the
Icelandic groups had higher manner match levels than the English groups, except word initially at
age 3. The English groups showed emergence of the manner category (less than 50% overall),
with the English-speaking 3-year-olds at slightly higher match levels than the English-speaking
4-year-olds, except word medially.
Manner mismatch types varied by position and group, and generally supported predictions.
Deletion and stop substitutions were expected early mismatch patterns, i.e. for the English-
speaking children and the Icelandic 3-year-olds. Proportionally, they were the most common
manner mismatch types across groups (absolute numbers being low for the Icelandic 4-year-olds,
however, who had high match levels). Deletion was common word finally across groups, and
across positions for the English groups. Stops (matching [sonorant]) were the most common
substitutions for the English groups and Icelandic 3-year-olds. All other manner mismatch types
([h], sonorants, affricates) occurred with relatively low frequency and generally matched
expectations concerning language-specific mismatches. The Icelandic groups produced more
laterals, nasals and clusters, and the Icelandic 4-year-olds, more [h] substitutions (again
proportional to their low number of mismatches). The English-speaking children used more glottal
stops, glides and affricates (although the latter not word medially).
Although manner features define the fricative category, place and laryngeal features further
delineate the various fricative types. Table 5 compares relative accuracy across feature categories
(manner/major place/subsidiary place/laryngeal) by language, age and word position.
Manner features, although showing higher match levels than whole segments, were less well-
established than either laryngeal (Icelandic) or major place features (English). Rank order for

Table 5. Feature category match proportions by word position, language and age.

Position Lang Age Manner Major Place Subsid Place Laryngeal

WI Ice 3 48 51 32 74
4 83 68 61 97
Eng 3 46 68 40 49
4 31 40 27 38
WM Ice 3 63 65 46 59
4 92 96 90 92
Eng 3 31 65 31 35
4 47 58 42 47
WF Ice 3 75 79 62 86
4 81 86 76 91
Eng 3 58 55 42 65
4 51 53 34 55
Overall Ice 3 61 64 46 71
4 85 83 75 94
Eng 3 48 63 39 53
4 39 53 31 44

Lang language; Ice Icelandic; Eng English; Subsid subsidiary; WI word-initial; WM word-medial;
WF word-final. Denominator all productions. Deletions counted as mismatches for all categories. All features of
a category had to match, with the exception that for Major Place, a palatal was considered a match for any coronal and
[w] a match for /f/ (Major Place). Bold designates 474% match for category.
Fricatives in Icelandic and English 655

feature category match was as follows (numbers indicate average ranks across positions, with
differences of less than 4% ignored; SubPlace Subsidiary Place):
(1) Icelandic, age 3: Laryngeal (1.3) 4 Major Place (1.7) 4 Manner (2.3) 4 SubPlace (3.3).
(2) Icelandic, age 4: Laryngeal (1.3) 4 Major Place (2) 4 Manner (2.3) 4 SubPlace (3.3).
(3) English, age 3: Major Place (1.3) 4 Laryngeal (1.7) 4 Manner (2.3) 4 SubPlace (3).
(4) English, age 4: Major Place (1) 4 Laryngeal (1.3) 4 Manner (2) 4 SubPlace (3).
Within language, feature category match data showed the same rank order; for Icelandic,
Laryngeal was most accurate with Major Place next, and for the English-speaking children, Major
Place, with Laryngeal next. For both languages, Manner match was third-ranked and Subsidiary
Place lowest-ranked.

Feature combination mismatches

The above feature analyses examined match levels for individual feature category types, and
mismatches for manner. Mismatches were further examined in terms of categories affected, in
order of multiple feature category mismatches (manner/place/laryngeal), dual category
mismatches (e.g. manner only, manner-place, manner-place-laryngeal) and finally, single feature
category mismatches. In order to compare data across word positions, Figures 57 display the
relative proportions of multiple, dual and single feature category mismatches for /f/ and /s/ only,
the two fricatives occurring across word positions.
Multiple feature mismatches included deletion, glottal stops and other substitutions, e.g. /f/ 4
[d] (Manner: [+continuant] 4 [continuant]; Major Place: [Labial] 4 [Coronal]; Laryngeal:
[voiced]4[+voiced]). Deletion and glottal stops, although perhaps motivated by word structure
constraints, were included because they occurred frequently for the English-speaking children and
the Icelandic 3-year-olds (and in small samples, removal of a major pattern artificially increases
the proportions for other mismatch types). Children at earlier developmental levels were expected
to show more multiple feature mismatches. This was confirmed for the English-speaking cohorts
and to a lesser extent, the Icelandic 3-year-olds. The English cohorts had a higher proportion of
multiple feature mismatches word medially and finally than initially, reflecting the higher
proportion of deletion or glottal stops in those structural positions. The 4-year-old Icelandic
children showed multiple mismatch patterns only word medially.
Children at later developmental levels were predicted to show dual feature mismatches.
Starting with manner-place mismatches, typical patterns were: /s/ 4 [h] (Manner: [sonorant] 4
[+sonorant]; Major Place: [Coronal] 4 [Place]); /f/ 4 [th] (Manner: [+continuant] 4
[continuant]; Major Place: [Labial] 4 [Coronal]). The manner-place mismatches were more
frequent for the Icelandic children word initially (and only word initially for the Icelandic 4-year-
olds); for the English-speaking children, these were more frequent word medially (with a low
occurrence word finally for both languages). By segment type, /f/ 4[t(h)] was relatively frequent
for Icelandic children, but a minor pattern for the English-speaking cohorts. In both languages, the
target words with /f/ contained coronals, and thus opportunity for assimilation does not necessarily
account for the high proportion of this pattern in Icelandic.
Dual mismatch categories with laryngeal included place-laryngeal (rare for both languages,
absent for Icelandic) and manner-laryngeal, e.g. /f/ 4 [p] or [b] (Manner: [+continuant] 4
[continuant]; Laryngeal: [+spread glottis] 4 [spread glottis] or [voiced] 4 [+voiced]).
Laryngeal mismatches generally involved loss of [+spread glottis], with the English data
showing a preponderance of [spread glottis] [+voiced] stops and the Icelandic data,
[spread glottis] [voiced] (unaspirated) stops. The Icelandic children showed a higher
proportion of manner-laryngeal mismatches word medially, and the English-speaking children,
656 B. M. Bernhardt et al.

Figure 5. Word-initial feature category mismatches by language and age for /f/ and /s/ combined. I Icelandic, E English; M Manner, P Major Place, Sub Subsidiary place
(e.g. [Coronal] [anterior]). Where more than one feature category is mentioned, the mismatch shows dual or multiple feature mismatches, e.g. if /f/ 4 [d], manner, major place and
laryngeal features are all affected.
Figure 6. Word-medial (intervocalic) feature category mismatches by language and age for /f/ and /s/ combined. I Icelandic, E English; M Manner, P Major Place,
Sub Subsidiary place (e.g. [Coronal] [anterior]). Icelandic geminate and singleton mismatches are combined because of minimal differences.
Fricatives in Icelandic and English
658 B. M. Bernhardt et al.

Figure 7. Word-final feature category mismatches by language and age for /f/ and /s/ combined. I Icelandic, E English; M Manner, P Major Place, Sub Subsidiary place (e.g.
[Coronal] [anterior]).
Fricatives in Icelandic and English 659

word initially. The Icelandic 4-year-olds showed no manner-laryngeal mismatches word

Finally, later developmental levels were expected also to show more single feature mismatches.
These occurred for all categories, most frequently for subsidiary place (mismatch for [+grooved]
for /s/) and least frequently for Laryngeal features and word finally. Manner mismatches occurred
across groups word initially, for 3-year-olds word medially, and for Icelandic children only, word
finally (proportions520% across positions). Major Place mismatches were observed word initially
for the English children only (515%), for all groups word medially (520%) and for all but the
Icelandic 4-year-olds word finally (530%). Subsidiary place mismatches (reflecting precision in
production of /s/ primarily) occurred across groups word initially and finally (530% and 430%,
respectively) and for the Icelandic groups word medially (525%). The 4-year-old Icelandic group
had over 80% Subsidiary Place mismatches word finally (with the caveat that the absolute
numbers remained low). Laryngeal-only mismatches appeared for the English-speaking groups
(e.g. /s/ 4 [z]), and word medially and finally, only for the 4-year-old English speakers.

The current study investigated fricative development in 46 Icelandic and English-speaking
preschoolers with PPD. As expected, similarities and differences were observed between the two
language groups. The discussion examines the study predictions in turn, commencing with
segmental match levels overall, by position and consonant, and then discussing mismatch types.
Preliminary global measures (PCM and WWM) revealed similarities between language groups
(PCM: 3-year-olds; WWM: 4-year-olds) and differences (WWM: 3-year-olds; PCM: 4-year-olds).
However, with outliers removed from the PCM and WWM comparisons, there were no significant
differences between language groups and fricative results were equivalent with or without
inclusion of the outliers. Thus, one of either the PCM or WWM was related to fricative output.
Meeting expectations, fricatives showed fairly low overall match levels, although the Icelandic
4-year-old group was nearing mastery for non-WI /f/ and /s/. The childrens PCM and WWM
levels were generally reflected in their fricative match levels, except for the Icelandic 4-year-olds,
whose PCM and WWM levels presumably reflected phonological challenges other than non-WI
fricatives. Thus, global measures can be useful predictors of severity, but individual sound classes
may be more relevant for more advanced phonological systems.
An expected age effect was confirmed for the Icelandic children. However, the English-
speaking 4-year-olds did not differ significantly in WWM, PCM or fricative match from either the
Icelandic- or English-speaking 3-year-olds. Age is not necessarily a predictor of developmental
level (Santrock, 2006), especially in small heterogeneous samples. Gender may have affected the
results for the English-speaking 4-year-olds; six of the 10 Icelandic 4-year-olds were girls,
compared with three out of 10 for the English sample. Smit et al. (1990) found some significant
differences between TD boys and girls in age of speech sound acquisition, with girls showing
earlier mastery. Larger samples would be needed to further clarify this issue. The outcome is a
reminder that assignment of severity needs to take age (and possibly gender) into account and
once again, that measures of overall proficiency (WWM, PCM) may or may not be directly related
to proficiency for a specific sound class.
Equating for severity (i.e. the 3-year-old groups), the English-speaking 3-year-olds were
expected to have a higher overall level of proficiency than the Icelandic 3-year-olds, the higher
proportion of fricative types in English potentially increasing awareness of the category. However,
overall mastery levels did not differ significantly. Thus, this prediction was either irrelevant or
unfounded, a larger fricative inventory possibly implying a longer trajectory for learning. Larger-
scale studies would also be needed to clarify this point.
660 B. M. Bernhardt et al.

Concerning word position, a higher match was expected for non-WI fricatives, where the
[+continuant] of the vowel could spread to neighbouring consonant slots, facilitating WM or WF
fricatives. Data only partially supported this prediction, significantly for the Icelandic 3-year-olds
and approaching significance for the Icelandic 4-year-olds. The lack of an effect for the English-
speaking children possibly reflected general negative constraints on word structure; WM and WF
consonants were subject to deletion or glottal stop insertion in those cohorts, with few segments
appearing in non-WI positions. Interactions between word structure and segments need to be
considered when interpreting statistical data about positional effects.
Regarding individual fricatives, previous research (Masdottir, 2008;, Smit et al., 1990) reported
earlier acquisition of /f/ than /s/ and /y/, with the assumption that /f/ is articulatorily easier and
more visible. The crosslinguistically infrequent/marked phoneme /y/ was in fact less accurate over
the groups. However, for /f/, only the English groups replicated previous findings. The Icelandic
children had more advanced development of /s/ than /f/, a contrast with reports to date on TD
Icelandic children (Table 1). This may be attributable to individual difference in a small sample of
children with PPD and requires further investigation.
Regarding feature category match, the two languages both showed the lowest level of match for
subsidiary place as predicted. Manner feature match was second lowest, even though many
substitutions were fricatives, particularly for the Icelandic children. The relatively more advanced
development of place and laryngeal features reinforces two concepts: (1) fricatives are a
developmentally challenging manner category; (2) partial faithfulness to segments is possible
through feature matching, i.e. segments are combinations of independent features.
The highest level of feature match differed between languages: major place for English-
speaking children, and laryngeal features for Icelandic children. This relative difference is
probably more attributable to the status of laryngeal features in the two languages than to place-
based constraints. Icelandic obstruents are [voiced], with fricatives and voiceless sonorants
additionally [+spread glottis]. The Icelandic inventory has fewer substitutions to offer that would
change laryngeal features, i.e. [+voiced] obstruents. The English inventory offers more
substitutions with laryngeal differences, which probably led to a lower level of faithfulness to
[voiced, +spread-glottis]. As predicted, the language inventory can result in different types of
substitutions across languages.
Turning to mismatches, deletion and stops were common patterns in both languages (although
the absolute number of mismatches in the Icelandic 4-year-old group was small). These and other
substitution patterns (e.g. /f/ 4 [d]) involved multiple feature mismatches, a predicted result for
children early in development or with severe PPD (English cohorts, Icelandic 3-year-olds). The
English-speaking children showed more deletion/glottal stop insertion, even equating for PCM or
WWM, and showing that at the prosodic level, the English cohorts had a more severely protracted
phonological development.
For the most advanced group, the Icelandic 4-year-olds, predominant mismatch patterns
involved dual and single feature category mismatches (especially for subsidiary place) as predicted
for later-developing phonologies. With respect to dual feature mismatches, there was an
interesting difference between English and Icelandic. In Icelandic, more manner-place
mismatches occurred (stopping or gliding plus fronting or backing) than in English, where
mannerlaryngeal mismatches were somewhat more common (stopping plus voicing). For
Icelandic, the mannerplace mismatches reflected the relatively strong tendency for /f/ to appear
as a coronal [t, D< ] or [y] rather than a labial. Two possible explanations for this are: (1) default
coronal place of articulation was used with unacquired fricatives. While coronals also replaced /f/
in the English sample, it was at a much lower rate; why the two languages should differ on this
point is unknown. (2) Coronal harmony was responsible, with /f/ assimilating to anterior coronal
consonants such as /t, l, D < /, either with a single feature category mismatch ([y]), or a dual
Fricatives in Icelandic and English 661

mismatch: gliding ([D< ]) or stopping ([t]), with place shifts. If so, this is a surprising high level of
Coronal Harmony, which Stemberger & Stoel-Gammon (1991) report to be fairly uncommon in
English between stops and nasals (in younger TD children). (It is worth noting that many of the
tokens where /y/ surfaced as [f] may have reflected Labial Harmony, in words like umall
thumb, which also has a labial vowel.) Whatever the explanation for the coronal substitutions,
the Icelandic facts differ from what has been observed in English elsewhere and in this study,
where Coronal Harmony could have occurred in these particular English words and did not.
Fricatives /f/ and /y/ showed another unexpected difference between languages. The English-
learning children often substituted [f] for /y/, but not [y] for /f/, a finding reported elsewhere for
English (Bernhardt & Stemberger, 1998). However, the Icelandic children showed substitutions in
both directions, with twice the mismatch rate at age 4 compared with age 3, and also at twice the
rate of /y/-to-[f] mismatches found in the English sample (both ages). A standard explanation for
the asymmetry in English is perceptual confusion (Miller & Nicely, 1955), with /f/ dominant
because it is more frequent and supported by visual salience (articulator visibility). The Icelandic
data do not support this explanation, even though the phoneme frequency and visual salience facts
are also true of Icelandic. One possibility is that such a perceptual bias exists, but that other factors
are at work (specific word familiarity, complexity, etc.).
Most differences in mismatches, however, occurred as expected given different inventories in
the languages: (1) more [+spread glottis] substitutions in Icelandic ([h], voiceless sonorants, pre-
aspirated stops, other fricatives); (2) more voiced obstruents, glides and affricates in English. An
unpredicted language difference also may have reflected different patterns of usage of glottal stops
in the adult languages. Glottal stops were more common substitutions in English (both word
medially, where reliably transcribed and elsewhere). Icelandic permits glottal stop only word
initially, and children possibly respected this restriction. Canadian English can have WM glottal
stops in certain contexts, i.e. before syllabic /n"/ in eating, a possible input source to support WM
glottal stop substitutions.
A final observation concerns /h/, included in this study because it is a fricative-like continuant
characterised by low-amplitude aperiodic noise, and acoustically similar to fricatives (where the
aperiodic noise is somewhat higher in intensity). However, /h/ is quite different articulatorily:
there is no close constriction in the oral cavity, and the aperiodic noise arises at the vocal folds
(which are spread rather than constricted); in fricatives, the aperiodic noise arises at the point of
major constriction. The /h/ is essentially a voiceless vowel, and it can be argued that its
articulation is far simpler than a fricative (consisting of laryngeal features superimposed on the
following vowel). Fricatives require precise positioning of the articulators to generate frication,
while /h/ does not. At age 3, /h/ has a much higher level of match than any fricative, suggesting
that it is less a fricative than an approximant, [+sonorant] rather than [sonorant].

In conclusion, this study replicates previous research showing that fricatives are challenging for
children with PPD. The crosslinguistic samples in this study were relatively similar at age 3, but
the 4-year-old Icelandic children had more advanced fricative development than the English
children, who were slightly less advanced than the English-speaking 3-year-old group. This
outcome provided an opportunity to document earlier versus later patterns in fricative
development, although not for English. Larger samples would be needed to observe a wider
range of performance for English fricatives. However, as predicted, pervasive mismatches were
common in children with early fricative development: deletion, stop substitutions and multiple
feature mismatches. At later developmental levels, there was an increase in feature category
662 B. M. Bernhardt et al.

match, with dual feature mismatches and finally, single feature mismatches becoming more
common, i.e. a gradual approximation of the target as noted in Ingram (1978) for English.
Differences between the languages in dual mismatch patterns and feature match within
mismatches showed the influence of the language inventory, especially as it concerned the
higher match for laryngeal features in Icelandic, with its higher proportion of [voiced, +sg]
segments. In general, non-WI fricatives were earlier acquired than WI fricatives (although not in
English, probably because of word structure limitations), suggesting that one avenue for fricative
acquisition is extension of the [+continuant] feature of vowels onto the following obstruent unless
the word structure is severely limited (as in the English cohorts). One language-specific
predictions was not borne out: the larger fricative inventory in English did not result in overall
higher matches for English compared with Icelandic. Although /f/ had the highest level of match
in English (similar to German; Bernhardt et al., 2014), this was not the case for Icelandic,
a finding that may be language-specific or reflect individual differences in the sample.
The overall complexity of the data reminds us that phonological acquisition can show notable
variability, some of which reflects the language being learned, but much of which is due to
individual differences. In order to minimise the impact of this variability, very large sample sizes
will be needed in the future. In the interim, this study provides new data for criterion reference
purposes, and some new questions about what we might expect in fricative acquisition across

We also acknowledge and thank the analysis assistants for the project: Amanda Pack and Clara Liu
(English); Christine Schretlen, Kathleen Heaney, Andrea Lau, Kean Leung, Nick Rochlin, Jessica
Luu and Joyce Tull (Icelandic analyses), and help transcribing the Icelandic data, Hildigunnur

We would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the BC
Health Research Foundation Grant number 410-2009-0348 and National Hearing and Speech
Institute of Iceland for project funding.

Declaration of interest
The authors report no conflict of interest.

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Appendix 1. Word-initial fricative match and mismatch proportions by age and language.
Fricatives in Icelandic and English 665

Appendix 2. Word-medial (intervocalic) fricative match and mismatch proportions by

language and age. Length ignored for Icelandic.

Appendix 3. Word-final fricative match and mismatch proportions by language and age.