Four-Month-Old Infants Prefer to Listen to Motherese

Anne Fernald

The speech register used by adults with infants and young children, known as motherese. is linguistically simplified and characterized by high pitch and exaggerated intonation. This study investigated infant selective listening to motherese speech. The hypothesis tested was that infants would choose to listen more often to motherese when given the choice between a variety of natural infant-directed and adult-directed speech samples spoken by four women unfamiliar to the subjects. Forty-eight 4-month-old infants were tested in operant auditory preference procedure. Infants showed a significant listening preference for the motherese speech register.

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