Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||Parents using the second person when talking about their child|
I have noticed that mothers often say things like, ''we don't like
to wear our hair bow on Tuesdays'', when really they mean that their
young (usually pre-linguistic) child doesn't like to wear their
hair bow on Tuesdays. Is there a name for this phenomenon and why
do you think it happens?
This sounds like a variation of "motherese" or the phenenomenon in some cultures (incl
our own) where mothers and other caretakers change their speech patterns when
speaking to children or in the presence of their children.
FYI - For the example above, I'm assuming that the child was present when the
statement was made.
"Conventional wisdom" among parents is that motherese is a way of simplifying speech
and to assist in communication (or perhaps make the child feel more included in this
There was a lot of debate about whether motherese actually helps with some arguing
that it hurts (I've seen TV ads arguing against motherese). Apparently, not every culture
practices it so it's not a universal, and I have seen parents use more adult like speech
patterns (but maybe a little slower and with intonation like motherese)
FWIW - Lots of American children have been exposed to motherese and have become
competent speakers of English, so I don't think it is anything to really worry about one
way or another.
|Reply From:||Elizabeth J Pyatt click here to access email|