Testing the Hyperarticulation and Prosodic Hypotheses of Child-Directed Speech: Insights From the Perceptual and Acoustic Characteristics of Child-Directed Cantonese Tones Purpose The function of child-directed speech has been debated for decades. This study examined the perceptual and acoustic characteristics of child- and adult-directed Cantonese tones to test the hyperarticulation and prosodic hypotheses that have been proposed to account for the acoustic modifications in child-directed speech. Method Sixty-two mother–child ... Research Article
Research Article  |   August 08, 2018
Testing the Hyperarticulation and Prosodic Hypotheses of Child-Directed Speech: Insights From the Perceptual and Acoustic Characteristics of Child-Directed Cantonese Tones
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Puisan Wong
    Faculty of Education, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam
  • Kelly Wing Sum Ng
    Faculty of Education, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Puisan Wong: pswResearch@gmail.com
  • Editor-in-Chief: Julie Liss
    Editor-in-Chief: Julie Liss×
  • Editor: Megan McAuliffe
    Editor: Megan McAuliffe×
Article Information
Speech / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 08, 2018
Testing the Hyperarticulation and Prosodic Hypotheses of Child-Directed Speech: Insights From the Perceptual and Acoustic Characteristics of Child-Directed Cantonese Tones
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2018, Vol. 61, 1907-1925. doi:10.1044/2018_JSLHR-S-17-0375
History: Received October 2, 2017 , Revised February 4, 2018 , Accepted April 23, 2018
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2018, Vol. 61, 1907-1925. doi:10.1044/2018_JSLHR-S-17-0375
History: Received October 2, 2017; Revised February 4, 2018; Accepted April 23, 2018

Purpose The function of child-directed speech has been debated for decades. This study examined the perceptual and acoustic characteristics of child- and adult-directed Cantonese tones to test the hyperarticulation and prosodic hypotheses that have been proposed to account for the acoustic modifications in child-directed speech.

Method Sixty-two mother–child dyads participated in the study. The mothers verbally labeled 30 pictures in monosyllabic isolated words and in the final position of a carrier sentence to the experimenter and their 1- to 5-year-old children. The 8,634 adult- and child-directed productions were low-pass filtered to eliminate lexical information and presented to 5 judges for tone identification. Acoustic analysis was performed on the productions.

Results Acoustically, child-directed tones were produced with an elevated pitch, and the pitch level decreased as the child's age increased. Acoustic contrasts between phonetically similar and more confusing tones were not enhanced in child-directed speech, and unexpectedly, child-directed tones were identified with a lower accuracy than adult-directed tones. The perceptual errors of child-directed tones mirrored the errors found in identifying tones excised from sentence-final position, which had a pitch-lowering effect on the tones. The lower perceptual accuracy, the lack of enhanced acoustic contrasts in confusing tone pairs, and the similarities in the error patterns in identifying tones in child-directed speech and tones in utterance-final position suggest that the acoustic modifications in child-directed tones are prosodic effects serving pragmatic purposes.

Conclusion The findings reject the hyperarticulation hypothesis and support the prosodic hypothesis of child-directed speech.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by funding from the General Research Fund of the Research Grant Council of Hong Kong to the first author.
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