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Tone and intonation in Mandarin babytalk to presyllabic infants: Comparison with registers of adult conversation and foreign language instruction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

Mechthild Papoušek*
Affiliation:
Max-Planck Institute for Psychiatry, Munich
Shu-Fen C. Hwang
Affiliation:
NICHD, Bethesda
*
Mechthild Papoušek, Institute for Social Pediatrics and Youth Medicine, University of Munich, Heiglhofstrasse 63, D-8000 Munich 70, Germany

Abstract

Six native speakers of Mandarin Chinese recorded 140 preselected utterances in three role-play contexts that differentially elicited registers of babytalk to presyllabic infants (BTP), foreign language instruction (FLI), and adult conversation (AC). Sound spectrograms were used to obtain 10 measures of fundamental frequency (Fo) patterns for comparisons among the three registers. In FLI, the speakers expanded Fo patterns in time and Fo range in comparison with AC. They clarified lexical tonal information and seemed to reduce suprasegmental information. In BTP, the speakers raised peak and minimum Fo, reduced the rate of Fo fluctuations, and increased the proportion of terminal rising contours. The speakers reduced, neglected, or modified lexical tonal information in favor of simplified and clarified intonation contours. The significance of the results is discussed in relation to tone acquisition in children and to a universal intuitive didactic competence in caretakers.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1991

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