Children's Competence with Listener Dependent Prosodic Modifications
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A key component of communicative development is learning that different listeners are spoken to in different ways. Mature communicators not only adjust what they say when addressing children versus adults, for example, but they also adjust the manner in which they speak. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore school-aged children’s knowledge about the kinds of adjustments that speakers make to their prosody depending on who their listener is. Prosodic aspects of speech are those which pertain to pitch, volume, and speech rate. Study 1 (Experiment A) explored the relative strength of prosody and semantic content in 5- to 10-year-old children’s decisions about the intended listener of greetings. In incongruent conditions, in which the prosody of the greeting suggested one listener (i.e., either an infant or an adult) and the content another, 5- to 6-year-old children’s choices indicated confusion about whom to choose, while 7- to 10-year-old children used prosody to choose the intended listener of the greeting. Experiment B showed that adults were similarly influenced by prosodic rather than content cues. In these ways, Study 1 highlighted older children and adults’ associations of speaker prosody with particular types of listeners (even in the face of conflicting content cues). Relatedly, Study 2 explored the kinds of social and communication-related judgments that adults (Experiment C) and children (Experiment D) made about speakers and listeners when the speaker’s prosody was appropriately tailored to her listener (i.e., child-directed prosody for a child) versus inappropriately tailored to her listener (i.e., adult-directed prosody for a child). When making judgments about a range of socio-communicative qualities, Experiment C showed that adults considered whether the prosodic style was appropriate for the listener when assessing competence. In contrast, Experiment D showed that 7- to 10-year-old children did not penalize interlocutors when there was a prosodic mismatch between speaker and listener. Rather, children showed a strong preference for child-directed prosody generally, which extended throughout their competence ratings. Results from these two sets of studies have theoretical implications as well as implications for the remediation of social and communicative deficits.
Cite this work
Anisha Varghese (2016). Children's Competence with Listener Dependent Prosodic Modifications. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/11055