Little Words: Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition

By Ronald P. Leow; Héctor Campos et al. | Go to book overview

4
Distinguishing Function Words from Content
Words in Children's Oral Reading

CAROL LORD, ROBERT BERDAN, AND MICHAEL FENDER

California State University, Long Beach

BY THE TIME they enter first grade, children acquiring language in a home where English is spoken typically show the English prosodic pattern in which content words receive stress but function words do not. However, when some of these children read text aloud it is perceived as choppy, awkward and word-by-word without meaningful phrasal groupings and lacking appropriate expression, as if they are reading a word list (Weber 2006). A major factor contributing to the impression of word-by-word reading appears to be the lack of a stress distinction between content words and function words.

To investigate this interpretation, we performed acoustic analyses on recordings of samples of oral reading by nonfluent children, fluent children, and adults. We measured nuclear vowels in monosyllabic function words and content words for acoustic correlates of stress, including vowel length, intensity, pitch, and vowel quality. We found that the nonfluent children's function words tended to be relatively longer, louder, and higher in pitch, and their vowels were less likely to be reduced to schwa. Compared with the proficient readers, there was less distinction between their pronunciations of function words and content words.


Prosodic Features of Function Words

In many languages, possibly all, there is a distinction between lexical categories and functional categories. In English, lexical categories include nouns, verbs, and adjectives—that is, content words that carry the dominant semantic weight of utterances. Functional categories include prepositions, articles, auxiliaries, modals, complementizers, and conjunctions as well as other particles; these signal relationships among content words. Content words contain at least one stressed syllable. If a function word appears in a list, it receives the same stress as a content word; for example, for and four are pronounced the same, as are him and hymn and to and two. However, in discourse context the function words typically occur without stress; exceptions occur when the function word is focused or phrase-final (Bolinger 1975; Selkirk 1996; Sweet 1891).

Perception of stress in English appears to depend on a few major acoustic correlates: vowel duration, intensity, and pitch (Fry 1955, 1958; Hayes 1995; Tamburini

-37-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Little Words: Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 246

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.