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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersDevelopmental TimelineFertilizationFirst TrimesterSecond TrimesterThird TrimesterFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFemale Reproductive SystemBeginning Cerebral HemispheresA Four Chambered HeartFirst Detectable Brain WavesThe Appearance of SomitesBasic Brain Structure in PlaceHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearFetal sexual organs visibleBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsInner Ear Bones HardenSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateFetal liver is producing blood cellsBrain convolutions beginBrain convolutions beginImmune system beginningWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisWhite fat begins to be madePeriod of rapid brain growthFull TermHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningLungs begin to produce surfactant
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Home | Pregnancy Timeline | News Alerts |News Archive Jun 1, 2015

 

 

 






 

 

Mothers coo while fathers say cool

Research presented at the 169th Acoustical Society of America meeting in Pittsburgh suggests that by avoiding baby talk, men may actually act as a bridge between baby talk and language acquisition for their children.


Even to a casual observer, there's no mistaking how some perfectly mature adults speak in high-pitched voices, frequently switching between high and low tones. Babytalk is sometimes known as "motherese," in part because most research on parent-child interactions is conducted between mother and child. Scientists study the behavioral phenomenon because they want to understand how speech patterns affect a child's language acquisition.

But in an era of shifting parental roles and increased fatherly involvement, researchers from Washington State University are now investigating whether fathers modify their speech, as mothers do, when talking to their children. Their initial results suggest that fathers do engage less in some of the intonation hallmarks of motherese. The team presented their research at the 169th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), held May, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

The Washington State team outfitted preschoolers and their parents with recording devices in order to monitor social interactions over the course of a normal day. They used speech-recognition software to pull apart the recordings and determine who was talking to whom. Ultimately, they compared the difference between the way mothers and fathers spoke to their children — to how those parents spoke to other adults.

The work confirmed previous studies, showing that mothers used higher pitch and varied that pitch more when interacting with their child, but not with adults. Fathers, on the other hand, did not use the same pattern of speech. Instead, they talked to their children using intonation more like that used when talking to other adults. This is the first study to examine a fathers' verbal interactions with his children in a real-world setting — and use automatic voice processing.

Motherese is believed to be a bonding tool as it is particularly attractive to babies and young children with its cadence and exaggerated vocal features. So are fathers failing to engage with their children by not using babytalk?


"This isn't a bad thing at all — it's not a failing on the part of fathers. We think that fathers are doing things conducive to their children's learning but in a different way. Parents complement their children's language learning."

Mark VanDam PhD, professor, Speech and Hearing Sciences, Washington State University, Spokane, Washington, and study leader.


The data support what VanDam refers to as the bridge hypothesis. Fathers, by speaking to their children more like adults, might act as a link to the outside world — helping them with unfamiliar speech patterns.

Furthermore, fathers' less frequent use of classic babytalk doesn't mean they aren't modifying their speech in other ways — for example, by using different vocabulary or changing volume or duration of their speech. VanDam believes the age and sex of a child may also influence a father's speech. This pilot study looked only at families with a mother and father both living full-time with their child. Single-parent families and same-sex parent families were not part of the study.

The study is just one part of a larger initiative at Washington State to examine how fathers support their children's language development. Ultimately, VanDam and colleagues are interested in addressing these same questions in families with hearing loss in order to understand it's impact on speech production and the learning of language.

Presentation Details
TITLE: Fathers' use of fundamental frequency in motherese
AUTHORS: Mark VanDam1, Paul De Palma1, William E. Strong1
INSTITUTIONS : Speech & Hearing Sciences, Washington State University, Spokane, WA, United States.

ABSTRACT :
Studies of motherese or child-directed speech (CDS) have paid scant attention to fathers' speech when talking to children. This study compares mothers' and fathers' use of CDS in terms of fundamental frequency (F0) production, examining natural speech from a very large database of hundreds of hours of family speech including mothers, fathers, and preschool children. The day-long recordings are collected with specialized recording software and body-worn hardware, then analyzed with automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology (LENA Research Foundation, Boulder, CO). CDS is defined here as speech in a conversational exchange between the parent and child, and adult-directed speech (ADS) is speech between adults or speech in which the child is not a (vocal) participant. Results confirm many reports in the literature of mothers' increased F0 during CDS. Results fail to show a difference in the F0 characteristics between fathers' CDS and ADS speech. This shows that children's linguistic experience with fathers is different than with mothers. This result could be useful to improve ASR techniques and better understand the role of usage in natural language acquisition and the role fathers play in the language acquisition process.

CURRENT TECHNICAL COMMITTEE: Speech Communication (SC)
PRESENTATION TYPE: Contributed Submission : Poster
PRESENTER: Mark VanDam

Presentation #2aSC8, "Fathers' use of fundamental frequency in motherese," by Mark VanDam, Paul DePalma and William Strong was presented during a poster session on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, from 8:00 AM to 12:00 noon in Ballroom 2. The abstract can be found by searching for the presentation number here: https://asa2015spring.abstractcentral.com/planner.jsp

ABOUT THE MEETING
The 169th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) was held May 18-22, 2015, at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown Hotel. It featured nearly 1,000 presentations on sound and its applications in physics, engineering, music, architecture and medicine.

ABOUT THE ACOUSTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA
The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7,000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (the world's leading journal on acoustics), Acoustics Today magazine, books, and standards on acoustics. The society also holds two major scientific meetings each year. For more information about ASA, visit our website at http://www.acousticalsociety.org

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