Research, Psychology, Linguistics

Communicating with babies--studies show moms and dads can differ in approach

January 11, 2018

From SFU News...

Moms and dads living in urban and Western societies tend to differ in how they speak to babies—also known as 'babytalk'—according to two SFU studies led by SFU psychology professor Tanya Broesch. The studies focus on the acoustic properties of speech used by parents.

Mothers were found to alter the pitch of their voice when speaking to infants, compared to when they spoke to an adult, in similar ways across cultures. Meanwhile in a study published in the journal Child Development, fathers from Vanuatu, a non-Western society in the South Pacific, also modified the pitch of their voice in ways that resembled mothers from around the world. However, fathers from a Canadian city did not. Instead of raising their pitch, they slowed down their speech rate—another feature of babytalk.

Broesch is completing two follow-up studies with SFU linguistics professor Henny Yeung and collaborators Elise McClay and Senay Cebioglu. One study looks at the acoustic properties of infant-directed singing across cultures, and another, on parents’ use of “hyperarticulation,” or exaggerated speech, in Vanuatu.