Comparing metrics for quantification of children’s tongue shape complexity using ultrasound imaging

Heather Kabakoff, Sam Pearl Beames, Mark Tiede, D. H. Whalen, Jonathan L. Preston, Tara McAllister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Speech sound disorders can pose a challenge to communication in children that may persist into adulthood. As some speech sounds are known to require differential control of anterior versus posterior regions of the tongue body, valid measurement of the degree of differentiation of a given tongue shape has the potential to shed light on development of motor skill in typical and disordered speakers. The current study sought to compare the success of multiple techniques in quantifying tongue shape complexity as an index of degree of lingual differentiation in child and adult speakers. Using a pre-existing data set of ultrasound images of tongue shapes from adult speakers producing a variety of phonemes, we compared the extent to which three metrics of tongue shape complexity differed across phonemes/phoneme classes that were expected to differ in articulatory complexity. We then repeated this process with ultrasound tongue shapes produced by a sample of young children. The results of these comparisons suggested that a modified curvature index and a metric representing the number of inflection points best reflected small changes in tongue shapes across individuals differing in vocal tract size. Ultimately, these metrics have the potential to reveal delays in motor skill in young children, which could inform assessment procedures and treatment decisions for children with speech delays and disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-195
Number of pages27
JournalClinical Linguistics and Phonetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Speech development
  • lingual differentiation
  • ultrasound imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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