"Motherese" of Mr. Rogers: a description of the dialogue of educational television programs

J Speech Hear Disord. 1986 Aug;51(3):282-7. doi: 10.1044/jshd.5103.282.


Dialogue from 30-min samples each from Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was described. Three aspects of language were measured: grammar, content, and discourse. The findings indicate that the dialogue of these programs is well suited to young viewers, with adjustments similar to those evident in adults' speech to young children. The mean length of utterance is comparable to that of adults in interactions with children, the ratio of different words to total words is the same as that of young children's language, sentence structure is simplified, and there is a heavy emphasis on the here and now (a majority of present tense verbs, a high proportion of utterances about immediately visible topics or referents, and a preponderance of narrative about shared immediate events). There are repeated instances of linguistic emphasis, with frequent repetition of key terms. Both programs avoid complex word forms. Overall, the dialogue of educational children's programs follows the constraints and adjustments evident in adults' child-directed language.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Language*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Education*
  • Humans
  • Language Development*
  • Linguistics
  • Television*