Are you talking to me? Child-directed speech and language development: hearing children of different socio-economic statuses and deaf children with a cochlear implant

Date: 30 May 2016

Venue: Stadscampus - Hof van Liere - Frederik de Tassiszaal - Prinsstraat 13 - 2000 Antwerpen

Time: 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte

PhD candidate: Liesbeth Vanormelingen

Principal investigator: prof. dr. Steven Gillis

Short description: Doctoraatsverdediging Liesbeth Vanormelingen - Departement Taalkunde - Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte



Are you talking to me? Child-directed speech and language development: hearing children of different socio-economic statuses and deaf children with a cochlear implant

Both internal or child characteristics, such as hearing status (normally hearing or hearing-impaired), and external characteristics, such as socio-economic status (SES) have an impact on the speech characteristics of mothers and children. The current dissertation investigated child-directed speech and children’s speech in three groups of children and their mothers, combining these two characteristics: (1) normally hearing (NH) children of mid-to-high SES (mhSES children), (2) normally hearing children of low SES (lowSES children), and (3) congenitally hearing-impaired children with a cochlear implant of mid-to-high SES (CI children).

In order to investigate children’s speech as well as the mothers’ speech a corpus-based approach was chosen. Video-recordings of spontaneous interactions between the children and their mothers (and possible other caregivers or siblings) were collected on a monthly basis at the child’s home.

The quantity and quality of the mothers’ spontaneous speech was investigated and revealed some striking results. Mothers of lowSES children provide their children with significant less input than mothers of mhSES children. Mothers of CI children of mhSES and mothers of NH mhSES children show a comparable amount of input. Also quality differences were present: mothers of lowSES children respond significantly less to their children’s utterances than mothers of mhSES children. Moreover, expansions are used significantly less by lowSES mothers. They attribute less meaning to their children’s utterances, and imitate their children’s utterances without adding extra information.

Mothers of CI children provide more qualitative feedback: they respond significantly more frequently to their children’s utterances, and incorporate their children’s utterances more frequently than mothers of NH children. 

The fact that lowSES children receive less input than their mhSES peers seems to be reflected in their own output. LowSES children are significantly less voluble than both mhSES and CI children. CI children are more voluble than their NH peers at first, but approach them over time. Moreover, CI children overlap their mothers’ utterances significantly more often, whereas lowSES children wait longer to take their turn.

Both SES and hearing status thus seem to influence children’s and mothers’ speech.



Contact email: liesbeth.vanormelingen@uantwerpen.be