Acoustic Variation Conditioned by Prosody in English Motherese

  • Received : 2010.02.01
  • Accepted : 2010.03.03
  • Published : 20100300


The current study exploresacoustic variation induced by prosodic contexts in different speech styles,with a focus on motherese or child-directed speech (CDS). The patterns of variation in the acoustic expression of voicing contrast in English stops, and the role of prosodic factors in governing such variation are investigated in CDS. Prosody-induced acoustic strengthening reported from adult-directed speech (ADS)is examined in the speech data directed to infants at the one-word stage. The target consonants are collected from Utterance-initial and -medial positions, with or without focal accent. Overall, CDS shows that the prosodic prominence of constituents under focal accent conditions variesin the acoustic correlates of the stop laryngeal contrasts. The initial position is not found with enhanced acoustic values in the current study, which is similar to the finding from ADS (Choi, 2006 Cole et al, 2007). Individualized statistical results, however, indicate that the effect of accent on acoustic measures is not very robust, compared to the effect of accent in ADS. Enhanced distinctiveness under focal accent is observed from the limited subjects' acoustic measures in CDS. The results indicate dissimilar strategies to mark prosodic structures in different speech styles as well as the consistent prosodic effect across speech styles. The stylistic variation is discussed in relation to the listener under linguistic development in CDS.