Positive Valence Contributes to Hyperarticulation in Maternal Speech to Infants and Puppies

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Cambridge University Press


Infant-directed speech often has hyperarticulated features, such as point vowels whose formants are further apart than in adult-directed speech. This increased “vowel space” may reflect the caretaker’s effort to speak more clearly to infants, thus benefiting language processing. However, hyperarticulation may also result from more positive valence (e.g., speaking with positive vocal emotion) often found in mothers’ speech to infants. This study was designed to replicate others who have found hyperarticulation in maternal speech to their 6-month-olds, but also to examine their speech to a non-human infant (i.e., a puppy). We rated both kinds of maternal speech for their emotional valence and recorded mothers’ speech to a human adult. We found that mothers produced more positively valenced utterances and some hyperarticulation in both their infant- and puppy-directed speech, compared to their adult-directed speech. This finding promotes looking at maternal speech from a multi-faceted perspective that includes emotional state.



Infant directed speech, hyperarticulation, vocal emotion