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Child-directed speech

Prepared B y : Movina Anbumaniam

Priyadhaarshini Magendran
Kamleshwary Krishnasamy
Priyanka Gunasekar
• A particular way of speaking with simplified syntax
and meaning and exaggerated prosodic structure,
well-matched to the abilities of the child (Dominey
et al., 2004: 125).

• According to Gallaway et al. (1994: 18), child-

directed speech aims to:
i. pass information to the children
ii. engage children to be part of an interactive
iii. be motivated by the desire to communicate
rather than to teach language
iv. attract and hold the baby’s attention
v. help the process of braking down language
into understandable chunks
vi. make the conversation more predictable by

• Separate phrases more distinctly, leaving longer pauses between them.

• Speak more s-l-o-w-l-y.

• Use exaggerated ‘singsong’ intonation, which helps to emphasise key

words. Also to exaggerate the difference between questions,
statements and commands.

• Use a higher and wider pitch range.


• Lots of gesture and warm body language.

• Fewer utterances per turn – stopping frequently for child to respond.

• Supportive language (expansions and re-castings).

• Use of concrete nouns (cat, train) and dynamic verbs (give, put).

• Adopt child’s own words for things (doggie, wickle babbit).

• Frequent use of child’s name and an absence of pronouns.

• Simpler constructions

• Frequent use of imperatives

• High degree of repetition

• Use of personal names instead of pronouns (e.g. ‘Mummy’ not ‘I’)

• Fewer verbs, modifiers and adjectives

5) Large number of one-word utterances

• Deixis used to point child’s attention to objects or people

• Repeated sentence frames eg. “that’s a ……”

• Use more simple sentences and fewer complex and passives.

• Omission of past tenses, inflections (plurals and possessives).

• Use more commands, questions and tag questions.

• Use of EXPANSIONS – where the adult fills out the child’s


• Use of RE-CASTINGS – where the child’s vocabulary is put into

a new utterance
Criticisms of CDS:

• ‘Babytalk’ actually interferes with

language development because
children learn babyish words and
sentences instead of the real language.

• Some countries like in Samoa and

Papua New Guinea, adults speak to
children as they speak to adults, and
children acquire language at the same

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