What is 'Motherese' and how important is it for language acquisition?

Essay, 2005

9 Pages, Grade: B



The way how children acquire language is still not clearly and satisfactory answered. Various theses have emerged since researchers have been started getting interested in how children acquire language. In the following context the language development which children run through is closer illuminated while a particular emphasis is put on the possible interdependence between language acquisition – the language output- and the linguistic environment children are exposed to – the language input. Probably everyone has once noticed that very commonly adults change their way of speaking when conversing to young children. Among linguists this phenomenon is known as motherese and reason for several different hypothesis about how children acquire language. On the surface one might wonder what could be the sense of that speech adaptation. One could assume that it is just a process that naturally belongs to upbringing and teaching of children. But this seems not to sufficiently answer the question how children acquire language. As there are more aspects which are involved in language acquisition this essay is restricted to motherese and its possible connection with language acquisition.

Language acquisition

To understand the effect and function motherese could have on early language acquisition it seems to be of good help to distinguish the process of the child’s language development. Therefore the different stages of language acquisition according to Grimm (1998) are illustrated in the following. The main stress thereby is put on the child’s phonological development.

Prelinguistical phase

The first stage that has to be mentioned is the prelinguistical phase which has its onset

already during pregnancy and lasts until the first one-word utterances at an approximate child’s age of ten to thirteen month. Before a child is born he/she is already surrounded with verbal language and its components - as there are specific sounds, intonation and rhythm- which can already be registered by the foetus from the beginning of the sixth pregnancy month, although, probably in lower and changed volume. After the birth the child is already used to his/her surrounding sounds and able to recognize his/her mother’s voice and even to react to rhythm and sound of the mother tongue in matters of faster or slower sucking. (Mehler 1988)

The phonological development

From six to eight weeks the infant’s utterances are limited to so-called cooing.


Excerpt out of 9 pages


What is 'Motherese' and how important is it for language acquisition?
University of Brighton  (School of languages)
First Language Acquisition
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
479 KB
What, Motherese, First, Language, Acquisition
Quote paper
Sonja Sickert (Author), 2005, What is 'Motherese' and how important is it for language acquisition?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/62735


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: What is 'Motherese' and how important is it for language acquisition?

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free