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Developmental Psychology on Motherese - Dictionary of Arguments

Upton I 60
Motherese/Developmenal psychology/Upton: [this is a] distinctive speech pattern characterised by a lot of repetition, simplified short utterances, raised pitch and exaggerated expression (Kuhl 2000)(1).
Upton I 61
(…) during the 1970s it was observed that this speech pattern is used not only by mothers, but also by women who have not had children (Snow, 1972)(2), fathers (Berko Gleason, 1973)(3) and even four-year-old children (Shatz and Gelman, 1973)(4). Thus a more accurate term for this distinctive form of speech is ‘child-directed speech’ (Matychuk, 2005)(5).
This type of speech is also very widespread and has been identified in a range of cultures. However, it is not a universal feature of language and, in cultures where it is not used, language development follows the same progress although more slowly (Lieven, 1994)(6). This suggests that such speech is useful but not essential for language development.
Child-directed speech is also more effective than standard speech in getting an infant’s attention and studies have shown that infants prefer to listen to this type of speech (Singh et al., 2002(7)). Some researchers (e.g. Bombar and Littig, 1996)(8) also believe that this type of talk is an important part of the emotional bonding process.



1. Kuhl, P(2000) A new view of language acquisition. Proceedings of the NationalAcademy of
Science, 9 7(22): 11850—7.
2. Snow, CE (1972) Mother’s speech to children learning language. Child Development, 43 (2): 549–65.
3. Berko Gleason, J (1973) Code switching in children’s language, in Moore, TE (ed.) Cognitive Development and the Acquisition of Language. New York: Academic Press.
4. Shatz, M and Gelman, R (1973) The development of communication skills. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 38: serial no. 152.
5. Matychuk, P (2005) The role of child-directed speech in language acquisition: a case study. Language Sciences, 27: 301–79.
6. Lieven, EVM (1994) Crosslinguistic and crosscultural aspects of language addressed to
children, in Gallaway, C and Richards, BJ (eds) Input and Interaction in Languo.ge Acquisition.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
7. Singh, L., Morgan, J.L. and Best, C.T. (2002) Infants’ listening preferences: Babytalk or happy talk?, Infancy, 3: 365–94.
8. Bombar, M.L. and Littig, L.W. (1996) Babytallc as a communication of intimate attachment: an
initial study in adult romances and friendships. Personal Relationships, 3(2): 137—58.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Developmental Psychology
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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