The limited amount of normative information regarding speech motor development in the clinically important age range four to seven years served as motivation for this study. The main aim of the study was to collect normative information regarding sensorimotor speech control skills of pre-school children. The method of the study was designed and the results interpreted within the framework of the four-level model of speech production of Van der Merwe (1997). Basic qualitative and quantitative data were gathered for a variety of aspects of speech motor development in Afrikaans-speaking children aged 4;0 to 6;7 years in the following areas: 1) non-speech oral movements, 2) non-speech diadochokinesis, 3) speech diadochokinesis, 4) cluster production, 5) word syllable structure in spontaneous speech, 6) acoustic data regarding first-vowel duration and variability of first-vowel duration in repeated utterances of the same word, 7) acoustic voice onset time data, 8) acoustic data regarding first-syllable duration in words of increasing length. Results indicated that associated movements and accuracy errors occurred in some non-speech oral movement and non-speech diadochokinesis tasks. Normative, diadochokinetic rate data were gathered. Perceptual analysis indicated difficulty with glottal and three-place diadochokinesis tasks. Subjects produced 84% of initial clusters in isolation correctly and 79% of final clusters. Schwa-vowel insertions occurred in clusters in isolation, but not in spontaneously produced words. Subjects produced 163 different word syllable structures in spontaneous speech, with 18 structures occurring in all subjects’ data. Six-year-olds generally displayed the shortest first-vowel duration. Individual, non-age related trends occurred for variability of first-vowel duration. Mean voice onset times in voiced stop contexts ranged from -97ms to +12ms, with overall instances of mean voicing lead occurring in 27% of the four-year olds’ productions, 4% of the five-year-olds’ productions and 80% of the six-year-olds’ productions. Mean voice onset times in voiceless stop contexts ranged from +11ms to +37ms. Subjects adapted first-syllable duration to word length by decreasing it as the word length increased. Results indicated that a wide range of normal speech motor performance is possible for children this age, and that individuals can display different performance levels for different speech parameters. This emphasizes the complexity of speech motor development and the need to assess a variety of speech motor parameters. It is essential that quantitative (objective) analysis of children’s speech motor performance be supplemented with qualitative (descriptive) analysis. The study contributed knowledge to the understanding of certain aspects of speech motor development and to the speech production process in general.
Dissertation (MComm Path)--University of Pretoria, 2007.