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Department of Cognitive Science

Seminar Abstract

Infant directed speech and its implications for language development: The case of Danish

Speaker : Professor Ocke-Schwen Bohn, School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University, Denmark.
Date : 1st of March 2017, 11:00AM until 12:00PM
Location : Australian Hearing Hub, 3.610, Macquarie University.

    This talk presents a study which contributes to the debate on the supposed universality of infant-directed speech (IDS), a special register used by many caregivers in interactions with young children. IDS differs from adult-directed speech (ADS) in that it is often characterized by higher pitch, more variable intonation, and hyperarticulation which enhances sound contrasts of the language to be learned. Danish presents several challenges for language learners which could provide opportunities for hyper articulation, such as a very large number of vowels with a densely packed upper portion of the acoustic vowel space. The present study examined whether Danish caregivers enhance Danish contrasts when speaking to their 18 month old children as opposed to an adult. Caregivers were recorded talking about toy animals in conversations with their child and with an adult interlocutor. The surprising result was that the participants did not enhance any acoustic dimension when interacting with the toddlers. In fact, there were several dimensions along which ADS was enhanced relative to IDS. Results will be discussed in light of the challenges which Danish provides for language learners and how Danish-learning children cope with these challenges.

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