Effects of Utterance Position and Familiarity on Mothers’ Production of Labels: An Acoustic Analysis of Child-Directed Speech

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  • Research on child-directed speech (CDS) has hosted a debate surrounding the reason caretakers use certain acoustic-prosodic characteristics when speaking to children. This study seeks to investigate the purpose of two of these CDS characteristics: higher mean pitch (Hz) and wider pitch range (pitch difference calculated by low Hz subtracted from high Hz) than adult-directed speech (ADS). The present study does so by comparing label productions of familiar and novel words in different utterance positions to children vs. adults. If mothers make acoustic modifications to novel labels only in salient utterance positions, and only in CDS, it would suggest that these modifications are a product of didactic intent. Results found that mothers did make modifications to mean pitch depending on familiarity and utterance position (initial and medial, but not final), but this was found in both CDS and ADS. Additionally, there were no significant results for pitch range. Overall, our results suggested that, rather than didactic intent, higher mean pitch and wider pitch range typically found in CDS are due to positive affect, attention-elicitation, or some other factor.

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    Article (Draft / Submitted)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International