The phonological forms and perceived functions of janyarrp, the Gurindji 'baby talk' register

Jones, Caroline and Meakins, Felicity (2013) The phonological forms and perceived functions of janyarrp, the Gurindji 'baby talk' register. Lingua, 134 170-193. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2013.07.004

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Author Jones, Caroline
Meakins, Felicity
Title The phonological forms and perceived functions of janyarrp, the Gurindji 'baby talk' register
Formatted title
The phonological forms and perceived functions of janyarrp, the Gurindji ‘baby talk’ register
Journal name Lingua   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0024-3841
Publication date 2013-09
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.lingua.2013.07.004
Open Access Status
Volume 134
Start page 170
End page 193
Total pages 24
Place of publication Amsterdam, Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
• We describe phonological forms and perceived functions of Gurindji baby talk.
• Phonological reductions resemble child speech, including coronal neutralization.
• Baby talk seems to function to hold attention and encourage child imitation.
• Baby talk to Gurindji children, and its functions, are explored for the first time.
• Results show how baby talk reflects culturally-specific contexts for acquisition.

Baby talk is an aspect of infant- or child-directed speech where caregivers imitate children's immature productions in stylized form. Within non-generativist approaches to language acquisition, children's language acquisition is often viewed an emergent response to a highly patterned linguistic environment, at least some of which is tailored by caregivers to children's cognitive and social needs. Some cross-cultural research, however, has disputed whether caregivers modify speech to children in all cultures, and whether or to what extent special infant- or child-directed speech is necessary for successful language acquisition. In this paper we present new cross-linguistic and cross-cultural data on baby talk or janyarrp among Gurindji people. Using a corpus of naturalistic family interactions and interviews with Gurindji people of northern Australia we describe the phonological modifications and specific lexicon of baby talk and investigate its possible functions. Several phonological reductions were found which are familiar from baby talk and child speech in other languages, including rhotic replacement and cluster reduction. More unusually, baby talk neutralizes the three-way coronal contrast in Gurindji Kriol, the language which Gurindji children learn at home. The functions of baby talk for Gurindji people likewise seem to comprise familiar baby talk functions like holding attention as well as less familiar functions, such facilitating children's imitations in production.
Keyword Child-directed speech
Infant-directed speech
Language development
Baby talk
Australian languages
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
School of Languages and Cultures Publications
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Created: Mon, 23 Sep 2013, 08:33:46 EST by Dr Felicity Meakins on behalf of School of Languages and Cultures