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Segmental distribution patterns of English infant- and adult-directed speech*

  • SUE ANN S. LEE (a1) and BARBARA L. DAVIS (a2)


This study compared segmental distribution patterns for consonants and vowels in English infant-directed speech (IDS) and adult-directed speech (ADS). A previous study of Korean indicated that segmental patterns of IDS differed from ADS patterns (Lee, Davis & MacNeilage, 2008). The aim of the current study was to determine whether such differences in Korean are universal or language-specific. Results indicate that consonant distribution patterns of English IDS were significantly different from English ADS. Speakers who used IDS produced fewer fricatives, affricates, nasals and liquids, but more stops and glides, than speakers who used ADS. In terms of vowels, IDS speakers produced more high-back vowels /u Ʊ/ and /ɔI/ diphthongs than ADS speakers. These results indicate both general trends and language-specific segmental distribution patterns in IDS. When compared to previous findings on ADS and IDS in Korean, these results for English give support to a more general assertion that segmental distribution patterns in IDS seem to be mediated by linguistic and cultural factors across languages.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Sue Ann S. Lee, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – Communication Sciences and Disorders, PO BOX 413, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201, United States. e-mail:


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We would like to thank Dr Nadya Foaud and Dr Susan Cashin, who provided valuable input on this article. We also thank Kendra Gefke, Ali Dammeir and Jaime Moore for their assistance with data collection and data analysis.



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Segmental distribution patterns of English infant- and adult-directed speech*

  • SUE ANN S. LEE (a1) and BARBARA L. DAVIS (a2)


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