ERIC Number: EJ1145364
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Jul
Abstractor: As Provided
Prosodic Differences between Declaratives and Interrogatives in Infant-Directed Speech
Geffen, Susan; Mintz, Toben H.
Journal of Child Language, v44 n4 p968-994 Jul 2017
In many languages, declaratives and interrogatives differ in word order properties, and in syntactic organization more broadly. Thus, in order to learn the distinct syntactic properties of the two sentence types, learners must first be able to distinguish them using non-syntactic information. Prosodic information is often assumed to be a useful basis for this type of discrimination, although no systematic studies of the prosodic cues available to infants have been reported. Analysis of maternal speech in three Standard American English-speaking mother-infant dyads found that polar interrogatives differed from declaratives on the patterning of pitch and duration on the final two syllables, but "wh"-questions did not. Thus, while prosody is unlikely to aid discrimination of declaratives from "wh"-questions, infant-directed speech provides prosodic information that infants could use to distinguish declaratives and polar interrogatives. We discuss how learners could leverage this information to identify all question forms, in the context of syntax acquisition.
Descriptors: Infants, Suprasegmentals, Mothers, Speech Communication, English, Interpersonal Communication, Syntax, Word Order, Sentences, Phonology
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: BCS1227074