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Recent studies have demonstrated that mothers exaggerate phonetic properties of infant-directed (ID) speech. However, these studies focused on a single acoustic dimension (frequency), whereas speech sounds are composed of multiple acoustic cues. Moreover, little is known about how mothers adjust phonetic properties of speech to children with hearing loss. This study examined mothers’ production of frequency and duration cues to the American English tense/lax vowel contrast in speech to profoundly deaf (N = 14) and normal-hearing (N = 14) infants, and to an adult experimenter. First and second formant frequencies and vowel duration of tense (/i/, /u/) and lax (/I/, /ʊ/) vowels were measured. Results demonstrated that for both infant groups mothers hyperarticulated the acoustic vowelspace and increased vowel duration in ID speech relative to adult-directed speech. Mean F2 values were decreased for the /u/ vowel and increased for the /I/ vowel, and vowelduration was longer for the /i/, /u/, and /I/ vowels in ID speech. However, neither acoustic cue differed in speech to hearing-impaired or normal-hearing infants. These results suggest that both formant frequencies and vowel duration that differentiate American English tense/lx vowel contrasts are modified in ID speech regardless of the hearing status of the addressee.


Copyright 2012 Acoustical Society of America. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the Acoustical Society of America.

The following article appeared in Kondaurova, M. V., Bergeson, T. R. (2012). Effects of deafness on acoustic characteristics of American English tense/lax vowels in maternal speech to infants. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 132(2), 1039-1049, and may be found at

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