Faculty Recognition

Dr. Henny Yeung gives his inaugural talk at SFU

October 07, 2022

Congratulations to Dr. Henny Yueng, who presented his inaugral talk on September 29th with the title: "How should we sound when we talk to babies?"


In contemporary research on language development, there is a renewed focus on what babies (should) hear. For example, public initiatives, like the “30-million word gap” or “Providence Talks,” apply normative standards to the quantity of richness of parent talk, while other research trends identify socio-pragmatic features of ‘high-quality’ parent talk. Here, I review research that questions this normative perspective to the phonetics and phonology of infant-directed speech, or IDS: Does everyone speak to babies using higher pitch, slower speech rates, and more variable articulation, etc. ... and if not, should they? I will then present work that examines these issues in two ways. First, I report an analysis of IDS phonetics from a large corpus of urbanized North American caregivers, asking whether the enhancement of prosodic features is correlated with other ‘positive’ estimates of parent talk. Second, I report a cross-cultural comparison of IDS from Canadian and ni-Vanuatu mothers. Results, with prior work, suggest serious problems for normative approaches to IDS phonetics.

The talk was recorded and can be watched at the following link:

Dr. Henny Yeung: Inaugural Talk


The Language Development Lab is looking for families to take part in the research that Dr. Yeung is currently working on. If you are interested please go to the LangDevLab webpage to learn more.

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