Infant-directed visual prosody: Mothers' head movements and speech acoustics

Nicholas A. Smith, Heather L. Strader

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Acoustical changes in the prosody of mothers' speech to infants are distinct and near universal. However, less is known about the visible properties of mothers' infant-directed (ID) speech, and their relation to speech acoustics. Mothers' head movements were tracked as they interacted with their infants using ID speech, and compared to movements accompanying their adult-directed (AD) speech. Movement measures along three dimensions of head translation, and three axes of head rotation were calculated. Overall, more head movement was found for ID than AD speech, suggesting that mothers exaggerate their visual prosody in a manner analogous to the acoustical exaggerations in their speech. Regression analyses examined the relation between changing head position and changing acoustical pitch (F0) over time. Head movements and voice pitch were more strongly related in ID speech than in AD speech. When these relations were examined across time windows of different durations, stronger relations were observed for shorter time windows (< 5 sec). However, the particular form of these more local relations did not extend or generalize to longer time windows. This suggests that the multimodal correspondences in speech prosody are variable in form, and occur within limited time spans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-54
Number of pages17
JournalInteraction Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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