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Flashcards in Cross-Cultural Differences in Language Learning Deck (8)
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Infant Directed Speech
or Motherese

(Definition and Characteristics)

Speech to very young children (16 months and younger)

Higher pitch

Speak more slowly

Dramatic, exaggerated intonation contours


Child Directed Speech

(Definition and Characteristics)

Speech to older children

Continues to be higher in pitch, more exaggerated intonation, and slower in tempo

Contains shorter, better formed utterances

Contains fewer false starts or hesitations

Contains fewer complex sentences and subordinate clauses

More tied to the immediate context (things that are present)


3 Studies about infants' preference for infant directed speech


Recorded 10 different adult women talking to their 4 month old infants and to an adult

Played 4 month olds in a booth in which the infant directed speech was played if they looked in one direction, and adult directed speech was played if looked in the other

Infants chose to hear infant directed speech more frequently than they chose the adult directed speech

Cooper and Aslin reported similar findings for one month olds

Werker, Pegg, Mcleod

Recorded videos of Cantonese speakers talking to infants or adults

Both English-speaking and Cantonese-speaking infants preferred to watch the infant directed speech at both 4 and 9 months

So "Motherese" seems to have similar properties even across languages

Fernald and Kuhl

Filtered everything out but the contours

Infants still preferred the infant-directed sounds


What makes motherese so interesting to infants? (2 ideas)

A universal signal system?

Seemingly universal correspondences between intonation and emotion
Command or reprimand ("No!")
Complement or sooth ("Good girl")
These seem to be the same across languages

So Motherese might be a similar biologically-based signal system


Just a more perceptually interesting sound sequence

Infants like the exaggerated contours produce high contrast

Drawn to Motherese for much the same reason they are drawn to bold colors or black on white patterns


How might infant directed speech aid learning? (2 ideas)

Correlation between intonation and emotion may help child to start
connecting sounds and meanings

Phonemes in infant directed speech seem to be easier to perceive
(mothers who produce more discriminate vowel sounds have infants who have better speech perception in the lab, to better generalize to other speakers of the language)


What are three problems in studying child directed speech?

Hard to test

Small sample size, must construct artificial setting to get adult to talk to both child and another adult

People will speak differently when they know they are being recorded


What is the learning environment for most children tested by child language researchers?

They spend most of their time in dyadic interaction (with a single caregiver,
most often their mother)

Might have both parents working and so have other caregivers
Nanny vs. a higher ratio of children to caregivers
Massive variation

Adults speak TO them a great deal

Adults use a simplified mode of speech with high pitch contrast when addressing them

Their vocal productions are encouraged and rewarded with praise and interaction


Are dyadic interactions typical in all cultures?

How would this affect language development?

In Samoa, childcare often performed by older siblings, in view of the mother

In Nigeria, children are cared for by maids (8-12 year old children) while mothers go to market or work in the house

Other communities have communal groups of other children and adults

How would this affect language development?

Less likely to receive correct positive evidence from other kids (as
opposed to adults) - hearing more errors

Is this helpful or a hindrance?

What is the problem with talking about access to the correct form?

Still going to be functional and understandable - not acquiring language to go through a formal education system

Might be looser conventions in these languages
Fewer standardizations
More permissive in allowed grammatical forms
Hear more variation in phoneme production