Mommy is only happy! Dutch mothers' realisation of speech sounds in infant-directed speech expresses emotion, not didactic intent

Titia Benders*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Exaggeration of the vowel space in infant-directed speech (IDS) is well documented for English, but not consistently replicated in other languages or for other speech-sound contrasts. A second attested, but less discussed, pattern of change in IDS is an overall rise of the formant frequencies, which may reflect an affective speaking style. The present study investigates longitudinally how Dutch mothers change their corner vowels, voiceless fricatives, and pitch when speaking to their infant at 11 and 15 months of age. In comparison to adult-directed speech (ADS), Dutch IDS has a smaller vowel space, higher second and third formant frequencies in the vowels, and a higher spectral frequency in the fricatives. The formants of the vowels and spectral frequency of the fricatives are raised more strongly for infants at 11 than at 15 months, while the pitch is more extreme in IDS to 15-month olds. These results show that enhanced positive affect is the main factor influencing Dutch mothers' realisation of speech sounds in IDS, especially to younger infants. This study provides evidence that mothers' expression of emotion in IDS can influence the realisation of speech sounds, and that the loss or gain of speech clarity may be secondary effects of affect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-862
Number of pages16
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Volume36
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes

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