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Entrainment of prosody in the interaction of mothers with their young children*


Caregiver speech is not a static collection of utterances, but occurs in conversational exchanges, in which caregiver and child dynamically influence each other's speech. We investigate (a) whether children and caregivers modulate the prosody of their speech as a function of their interlocutor's speech, and (b) the influence of the initiator of the conversation on durational characteristics of the exchange. We analyzed naturalistic conversations from 13 mother–infant/toddler dyads aged 12–30 months across full-day recordings of 3–5 days per dyad using LENA and automated analytic tools. We found small, but significant, effects of mothers and their children influencing each other's speech, particularly in pitch measures. We also found longer utterances and shorter response latencies for the initiator of a conversation. While mothers show more mature conversational capabilities (more entrainment, shorter response latencies), our findings converge with prior research to highlight the active role of young children in the conversational exchange.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Melanie Soderstrom, Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3 T 2N2. e-mail:
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Eon-Suk Ko, Institute for Cognitive Science, Seoul National University; Amanda Seidl, Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, Purdue University; Alejandrina Cristia, Laboratoire de Science Cognitives et Psycholinguistiques, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique; Melissa Reimchen, Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba; Melanie Soderstrom, Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba. This research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant NRF-2014S1A5B5A02014474 to EK, and a SSHRC grant 430-2011-0459 to MS. AC acknowledges the institutional support of ANR-10-LABX-0087 and ANR-10-IDEX-0001-02.

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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
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