Apr 11, 2020

Acoustic regularities in infant-directed vocalizations across cultures

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
C. J. MoserSamuel A Mehr

Abstract

Humans often produce vocalizations for infants that differ from vocalizations for adults. Is this property common across societies? The forms of infant-directed vocalizations may be shaped by their function in parent-infant communication. If so, infant-directed song and speech should be differentiable from adult-directed song and speech on the basis of their acoustic features, and this property should be relatively invariant across cultures. To test this hypothesis, we built a corpus of 1,614 recordings of infant- and adult-directed singing and speech produced by 411 people living in 21 urban, rural, and small-scale societies. We studied the corpus in a massive online experiment and in a series of acoustic analyses. Naive listeners (N = 13,218) reliably identified infant-directed vocalizations as infant-directed, and adult-directed speech (but not songs) as adult-directed, at rates far higher than chance. Ratings of infant-directed song were the most accurate and the most consistent across all societies; infant-directed speech was accurately identified on average, but inconsistently across societies. To determine the mechanisms underlying these results, we extracted many acoustic features from each recording and identified thos...Continue Reading

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