Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Bernard G. Grela, Ph.D.; Tammie J. Spaulding, Ph.D.

Field of Study

Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences


Master of Arts

Open Access

Open Access


A major goal of research in the domain of speech perception has been to describe how listeners recover individual consonants and vowels from the speech stream. A major challenge to this task is explaining how this is possible given the extreme variability present in the speech signal. In healthy adults, findings have repeatedly demonstrated that the key to healthy perceptual processing system is dynamically adjusting phonetic boundaries to accommodate contextual influences in speech production. The current study seeks to determine if school-aged children demonstrate the same functional plasticity for systematic variation. Collectively, we found that older children (8-10 years of age) demonstrated boundary flexibility similar to adults. For younger children (5-7 years of age), the results were less definitive, which indicates that the paradigm may not be appropriate for young school-aged children. The results of the current work add to our knowledge of language processing in three ways. First, the results indicate that the modified paradigm successfully measured categorical processing in healthy adults and typically-developing older children. Second, the results provide evidence in support of modifications to the paradigm, such as discrimination paradigms and imaging paradigms, to further assess the effects of context on the perceptual systems of younger children. Finally, the results point to specific considerations for informing the locus of language impairment in children, particularly for the specific language impairment population.

Major Advisor

Rachel M. Theodore, Ph.D.