Effects of environmental stimulation on infant vocalizations and orofacial dynamics at the onset of canonical babbling

Meredith Poore Harold, Steven M. Barlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The vocalizations and jaw kinematics of 30 infants aged 6-8 months were recorded using a Motion Analysis System and audiovisual technologies. This study represents the first attempt to determine the effect of play environment on infants' rate of vocalization and jaw movement. Four play conditions were compared: watching videos, social contingent reinforcement and vocal modeling with an adult, playing alone with small toys, and playing alone with large toys. The fewest vocalizations and spontaneous movement were observed when infants were watching videos or interacting with an adult. Infants vocalized most when playing with large toys. The small toys, which naturally elicited gross motor movement (e.g., waving, banging, shaking), educed fewer vocalizations. This study was also the first to quantify the kinematics of vocalized and non-vocalized jaw movements of 6-8 month-old infants. Jaw kinematics did not differentiate infants who produced canonical syllables from those who did not. All infants produced many jaw movements without vocalization. However, during vocalization, infants were unlikely to move their jaw. This contradicts current theories that infant protophonic vocalizations are jaw-dominant. Results of the current study can inform socio-linguistic and kinematic theories of canonical babbling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-93
Number of pages10
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Canonical babbling
  • Environment
  • Kinematics
  • Speech

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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