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The hyperarticulation hypothesis of infant-directed speech

Cristia, A., & Seidl, A. (2014). The hyperarticulation hypothesis of infant-directed speech. Journal of Child Language, 41(4), 913-934. doi:10.1017/S0305000912000669.
Typically, the point vowels [i,ɑ,u] are acoustically more peripheral in infant-directed speech (IDS) compared to adult-directed speech (ADS). If caregivers seek to highlight lexically relevant contrasts in IDS, then two sounds that are contrastive should become more distinct, whereas two sounds that are surface realizations of the same underlying sound category should not. To test this prediction, vowels that are phonemically contrastive ([i-ɪ] and [eɪ-ε]), vowels that map onto the same underlying category ([æ- ] and [ε- ]), and the point vowels [i,ɑ,u] were elicited in IDS and ADS by American English mothers of two age groups of infants (four- and eleven-month-olds). As in other work, point vowels were produced in more peripheral positions in IDS compared to ADS. However, there was little evidence of hyperarticulation per se (e.g. [i-ɪ] was hypoarticulated). We suggest that across-the-board lexically based hyperarticulation is not a necessary feature of IDS.

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