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The quality of child-directed speech depends on the speaker's language proficiency

  • Erika HOFF (a1), Cynthia CORE (a2) and Katherine F. SHANKS (a1)


Many children learn language, in part, from the speech of non-native speakers who vary in their language proficiency. To investigate the influence of speaker proficiency on the quality of child-directed speech, 29 mothers who were native English speakers and 31 mothers who were native speakers of Spanish and who reported speaking English to their children on a regular basis were recorded interacting with their two-year-old children in English. Of the non-native speakers, 21 described their English proficiency as ‘good’, and eight described their English proficiency as ‘limited’. ANCOVAs, controlling for differences in maternal education and child language level, revealed significant effects of group on lexical and grammatical properties of child-directed speech that the literature has identified as positive predictors of child language development. These results suggest that the child-directed speech of native speakers and non-native speakers with good proficiency provide a richer database for language acquisition than the child-directed speech of speakers with limited proficiency.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University. E-mail:


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