Fernald and her colleagues have argued for the universality of prosodic modifications in speech addressed to infants (e.g. Fernald, 1987; Fernald, Taeschner, Dunn, Papousek, de Boysson-Bardies & Fukui, 1989). An alternative proposal in Bernstein-Ratner & Pye (1984) and Pye (1986) argues that speech modifications to children are the result of a set of conventions that may vary from culture to culture. This note presents arguments against Fernald and in support of the cultural account of prosodic modifications to infants and children. First, in response to criticisms in Fernald et al., data are presented which defend the conclusion in Bernstein-Ratner & Pye that Quiche mothers show less prosodic modification to children than do mothers in other cultures studied to date. Second, data used to support the universal position in Fernald (1987) on adult identification of infant affective states are reinterpreted and shown to be equally interpretable as the result of a set of culturally transmitted rules.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Language and Linguistics
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Linguistics and Language