Motherese

MOTHERESE. A term used in the study of CHILD LANGUAGE ACQUISITION for the way mothers talk to their young children. Its features include simplified grammar, exaggerated speech melody, diminutive forms of words such as doggie, and a highly repetitive style. There is also a tendency to expand or comment on what the child has just said: when a child says Castle down, and the mother replies, Yes, the castle’s fallen down. Although originally mothers were the focus of research study, similar conversational patterns have been observed in fathers’ speech (sometimes referred to as fatherese) and in the speech of others who look after young children, such as grandparents and nannies (users of caretaker speech). These patterns, however, are not identical: for example, research indicates that fathers tend to be more intense and demanding in talking to young children, using more direct questions and a wider range of vocabulary. See BABY TALK-ESE.

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O29-MOTHERESE.html (accessed 04 March 2016)

I was struck dumb the other day, sitting in a cafe next to two young mothers talking to each other. I found the conversation inane, but the speech patterns were too distracting for me not to listen.

I thought, "What the fuck, how affected and false and stupid they sound. The poor people that have to grow up listening to that every day." Exaggerated Valley-Girl-Barbie-Speak gone awry as biology, motherese, imposed itself on this 21st c. North American dialect or accent.
"Like, Oh m'gaawd, wittle-wee Charlie did da sweetest thing??" (each phrase ending in a question).
Then I thought, "What's Charlie going to talk like we she's a mother?"
What patterns engrained themselves upon Charlie in the womb and as a new born? Will she talk like the other kids in daycare? Will she only talk in question marks? Will she feel more apologetic toward others? Will that affect her self-esteem? How will our language adapt? What melodies will she like? What rhythms and inflections? Will technology adapt to the shifts in musical preferences this might imply?

 

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