Effects of the acoustic properties of infant-directed speech on infant word recognition

J Acoust Soc Am. 2010 Jul;128(1):389-400. doi: 10.1121/1.3419786.


A number of studies have examined the acoustic differences between infant-directed speech (IDS) and adult-directed speech, suggesting that the exaggerated acoustic properties of IDS might facilitate infants' language development. However, there has been little empirical investigation of the acoustic properties that infants use for word learning. The goal of this study was thus to examine how 19-month-olds' word recognition is affected by three acoustic properties of IDS: slow speaking rate, vowel hyper-articulation, and wide pitch range. Using the intermodal preferential looking procedure, infants were exposed to half of the test stimuli (e.g., Where's the book?) in typical IDS style. The other half of the stimuli were digitally altered to remove one of the three properties under investigation. After the target word (e.g., book) was spoken, infants' gaze toward target and distractor referents was measured frame by frame to examine the time course of word recognition. The results showed that slow speaking rate and vowel hyper-articulation significantly improved infants' ability to recognize words, whereas wide pitch range did not. These findings suggest that 19-month-olds' word recognition may be affected only by the linguistically relevant acoustic properties in IDS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Child Language
  • Comprehension
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language Development*
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Phonetics*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Pitch Perception
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Speech Acoustics*
  • Speech Perception*
  • Time Factors
  • Video Recording
  • Visual Perception