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Maternal speech: strategy or response?*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008

Linda Smolak
Affiliation:
Kenyon College
Marsha Weinraub
Affiliation:
Temple University

Abstract

The existing data concerning the effects of maternal speech on child language development are so conflicting that it is difficult to draw even tentative conclusions about this relationship. One potential contributor to this problem is our lack of information concerning the determinants of maternal speech. The present study was designed to separate those elements of maternal speech which are heavily influenced by child language levels from those that seem to represent the mother's consistent style or strategy for ‘teaching’ language. Syntactic, discourse, and communicative functions of mothers' speech were examined. Mothers of high-and low-level language children were compared when talking to their daughters and to another girl the same age as their daughter. Analysis indicated a striking amount of similarity and consistency in high vs. low mothers' speech to both their daughters and the other child. Those elements of maternal speech that did show differences tended to be features that are fairly easily monitored by mothers or are directly tied to child utterances.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1983

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Footnotes

[*]

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Boston, 1981. We are grateful to Joanne Budney and Kathy Feuermen for their assistance. Our deepest appreciation is due to Marlyce's father for permitting her to participate in this project. Address for correspondence: Linda Smolak, Kenyon College, Department of Psychology, Gambier, Ohio 43022.

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