The Effects of Age and Infant Hearing Status on Maternal Use of Prosodic Cues for Clause Boundaries in Speech

Kondaurovaa, Maria V.; Bergesona, Tonya R.
June 2011
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Jun2011, Vol. 54 Issue 3, p740
Academic Journal
Purpose: The present study examined the effects of age and hearing status of a child on maternal use of pitch change, preboundary vowel lengthening, and pause duration, all of which are prosodic cues correlated with clause boundaries in infant-directed speech. Method: Mothers' speech to infants with normal hearing (NH; n = 18), infants who are profoundly deaf with a cochlear implant (HI; n = 9), and an adult experimenter were recorded at 2 time periods separated by 6 months. NH infants were matched to HI infants by chronological age or hearing experience. Fundamental frequency of pre- and postboundary vowels, vowel duration, and pause duration between utterances was measured. Results: Results demonstrated that mothers (a) exaggerated prosodic characteristics in infant-directed speech regardless of infants' hearing status; (b) tailored preboundary vowel lengthening to infants' hearing experience rather than to chronological age; and (c) decreased exaggeration of pause duration over time. Conclusions: The results suggest that acoustic cues correlated with clause boundaries are available in maternal speech to HI infants. Their exaggeration relative to adult-directed speech suggests that mothers' use of infant-directed speech is a natural behavior regardless of infant hearing status. Finally, mothers modify speech prosody according to their children's age and hearing experience.


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