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Summary Details

Query:   Infant-Directed Speech
Author:  Fay Wouk
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition

Summary:   A while back I posted the following query (Linguist 14.2026):

Anne Fernald, in 'Human maternal vocalizations to infants as
biologically relevant signals: An evolutionary perspective. In
Language Acquisition: : Core Readings, Paul Bloom (ed.). 1996
Cambridge MA: MIT Press. Reprinted from Barkow et al, 1992, The
Adapted Mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. suggests some universals in terms of
prosodic patterns in speech directed to infants. I was wondering if
anyone knows of any further work done in this area, and in
particular, if there has been any investigation of this in some of
the cultures (like Samoan, Quiche Mayan or working class
African-Americans) where it has been claimed that little or no speech
is directed at infants.

I received responses from Denis Donovan and Jeroen van de Weijer.

Dennis Donovan suggested that I look at a complementary set of
literature on infant responses to music, and provided the following

Trehub, S. E. and L. J. Trainor (1993). Listening strategies in infancy:
The roots of music and language development. Thinking in Sound: The
Cognitive Psychology of Human Audition. S. McAdams and E. Bigand.
Oxford, Oxford University Press: 278-327.

He also sent me copy of Sandra Trehub's chapter (Musical
Predispositions in Infancy) in the Annals of the New York Academy of
Science (no publication date given on the file).

Jeroen van de Weijer suggested that I contact his brother, Joost van
de Weijer, who had recently completed a dissertation on the subject,
looking at child-directed Dutch. I did so, and Joost van de Weijer
provided the following references:

Fernald, A., Taeschner, T., Dunn, J., Papousek, M., de Boysson-Bardies, B.
and Furui, I. (1989). A cross-language study of prosodic modifications in
mothers' and fathers' speech to preverbal infants. Journal of Child
Language, 16, 477-501.

Ratner, N. and Pye, C. (1984). Higher pitch in BT is not universal: acoustic
evidence from Quiche Mayan. Journal of Child Language, 2, 515-522.

Weijer, J. van de (1997). Language Input to a Prelingual Infant. In A.
Sorace, C. Heycock and R. Shillcock (eds.). Proceedings of the GALA '97
Conference on Language Acquisition (pp. 290-293). Edinburgh, Scotland.

He also suggested that I look for work by Dennis Burnham, and
Christine Kitamura on Thai child-directed speech, although he did not
have a reference for that..

I would like to thank Denis Donovan, Jeroen van de Weijer, and Joost
van de Weijer for their assistance.

Dr. Fay Wouk
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics
Department of Applied Language Studies and Linguistics
University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019
New Zealand

LL Issue: 14.2805
Date Posted: 16-Oct-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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