Relations between segmental and motor variability in prosodically complex nonword sequences

Lisa Goffman, Lou Ann Gerken, Julie Lucchesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Purpose: To assess how prosodic prominence and hierarchical foot structure influence segmental and articulatory aspects of speech production, specifically segmental accuracy and variability, and oral movement trajectory variability. Method: Thirty individuals participated: 10 young adults, 10 children who are normally developing, and 10 children diagnosed with specific language impairment. Segmental error and segmental variability and movement trajectory variability were compared in low and high prosodic prominence conditions (i.e., strong and weak syllables) and in different prosodic foot structures. Results: Between-participants findings were that both groups of children showed more segmental error and segmental variability and more movement trajectory variability than did adults. A similar within-participant pattern of results was observed for all 3 groups. Prosodic prominence influenced both segmental and motor levels of analysis, with weak syllables produced less accurately and with more lip and jaw movement trajectory variability than strong syllables. However, hierarchical foot structure affected segmental but not motor measures of speech production accuracy and variability. Conclusions: Motor and segmental variables were not consistently aligned. This pattern of results has clinical implication because inferences about motor variability may not directly follow from observations of segmental variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)444-458
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2007


  • Nonword repetition
  • Prosody
  • Specific language impairment
  • Speech motor control
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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