Marklund, U., Marklund, E., & Gustavsson, L. (2021). Relationship between parents’ vowel hyperarticulation in infant-directed speech and infants’ phonetic complexity on the level of conversational turns. Frontiers in Psychology (688242). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.688242


When speaking to infants, parents typically use infant-directed speech, a speech register that in several aspects differs from that directed to adults. Vowel hyperarticulation, that is, extreme articulation of vowels, is one characteristic sometimes found in infant-directed speech, and it has been suggested that there exists a relationship between how much vowel hyperarticulation parents use when speaking to their infant and infant language development. In this study, the relationship between parent vowel hyperarticulation and phonetic complexity of infant vocalizations is investigated. Previous research has shown that on the level of subject means, a positive correlational relationship exists. However, the previous findings do not provide information about the directionality of that relationship. In this study the relationship is investigated on a conversational turn level, which makes it possible to draw conclusions on whether the behavior of the infant is impacting the parent, the behavior of the parent is impacting the infant, or both. Parent vowel hyperarticulation was quantified using the vhh-index, a measure that allows vowel hyperarticulation to be estimated for individual vowel tokens. Phonetic complexity of infant vocalizations was calculated using the Word Complexity Measure for Swedish. Findings were unexpected in that a negative relationship was found between parent vowel hyperarticulation and phonetic complexity of the immediately following infant vocalization. Directionality was suggested by the fact that no such relationship was found between infant phonetic complexity and vowel hyperarticulation of the immediately following parent utterance. A potential explanation for these results is that high degrees of vowel hyperarticulation either provide, or co-occur with, large amounts of phonetic and/or linguistic information, which may occupy processing resources to an extent that affects production of the next vocalization.

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