About this Research Topic
Baby-talk, 'motherese', and infant- or child-directed speech (IDS or CDS) are all terms used to indicate the particular voice register observed in the majority of parents in interaction with their infants. CDS characteristics and their importance and effects, both for parent-infant interaction and for infant development, were studied extensively during the last decades.
CDS differs from the natural speech used in conversations with adults by specific prosodic, lexical, syntactic, and functional characteristics. In general, speech addressed to children is syntactically and lexically less complex and more concrete than adult-directed speech (ADS). These modifications provide speech data and information that young children can use in figuring out their language structure and use. Concerning the prosodic and acoustic features, a large number of studies evidenced that from their first interactions with newborns, mothers use exaggerated pitch contours, characterized by a higher pitch, wider and smoother pitch excursions, slower tempo, and more pauses. These characteristics are supposed to make parental speech more attractive for infants and children in comparison with ADS.
This preference for CDS is crucial because it makes infants more focused on adults who address them with CDS and consequently facilitates more effective interactions. It is through these social interactions that, in turn, CDS stimulates infant socio-cognitive development. This is consistent with several studies reporting that CDS prototypical characteristics are associated with more infant attention, infant engagement, linguistic acquisition, and enrichment in affect transmission and sharing.
From a dynamic perspective CDS, with its specific features and modifications over time, may generally be considered a way parents adjust their input to their children’s development and achievements. However, individual differences in CDS prosodic, structural, and functional characteristics are documented. These variations – which are not necessarily adaptive or non-adaptive - could be determined by contextual factors or by specific parental or child’s characteristics. Nonetheless, there is still a considerable gap of knowledge in our understanding of CDS variations according to individual, dyadic, and contextual factors and in the role of those variations for child development.
The current Research Topic aims to bring together researchers working on exploring CDS from this perspective by analyzing specific linguistic and prosodic characteristics of CDS and how these are affected by individual and environmental factors. Papers are especially welcome if they address the interaction among parental and infant factors, in at-risk or not populations. Papers that also examine the effects of these specific CDSs on infant and childhood development are encouraged. Since we aim to focus on infancy and early childhood, contributions with participants under the age of 5 years will be preferred.
Keywords: Child-directed speech, prosody, language, child development, mother-child interaction, CDS, IDS, motherese, baby-talk
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