Child-directed Speech

"Even four year olds adjust their language when speaking to a two year old. The way that adults talk to babies is similar to the way they talk to dogs."

(Hirsh-Pasek and Treiman, 1982)

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Child-directed speech aims to:

  • Attract and hold the baby’s attention;
  • Help the process of breaking down language into understandable chunks;
  • Correct virtuous errors;
  • Make the conversation more predictable;
  • Encourage language development and conversational skills.
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Features of Child-directed speech:

  • Higher pitch and exaggerated intonation and stress
  • Repeated sentence frames
  • Repetition and partial repetition of adult’s own words
  • Questions and commands
  • Frequent use of the child’s name and an absence of pronouns (Durkin disputes this)
  • Absence of past tenses
  • A large number of one word utterances (holophrases)
  • Omission of inflections e.g. plurals and possessives
  • Fewer verbs, modifiers (adjectives in front of nouns) and function     words (such as ‘at’ ‘my’)
  • Use of concrete nouns
  • Use of expansions – the adult fills out the child’s utterance
  • Use of re-castings – baby’s vocab put into a new utterance

Does child-directed speech influence children’s language development?

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Some Common Ideas about CDS

A parent’s use of questions with ‘yes/no’ answers seems to be connected with many aspects of children’s language development;

Complexity in a parent’s language CAN hinder a child's language development;

The use of child-directed speech improves the child’s use of auxiliary verbs such as ‘could’, ‘have’, ‘did’, ‘might’.

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