Children's Language - Vol. 5

Children's Language - Vol. 5

Children's Language - Vol. 5

Children's Language - Vol. 5

Excerpt

Intonation, along with other paralinguistic communication systems, is one of the early means by which infants communicate with their caregivers. Before infants can produce many (or indeed any) adult-sounding words, they use intonation in conjunction with gestural systems to communicate a range of functions recognizable to their caregivers. This paper attempts to take a preliminary look at the intentional communications of ten 12-month-old children and their mothers to address the following questions: (1) What speech act functions are distinguished by rising versus nonrising intonation in infants and mothers? (2) What similarities in intonation use exist between mothers and their children? (3) Is intonation use subject to the same processes of simplification of function and overgeneralization of meaning as other areas of language acquisition?

Given the current embattled status of intonation, the controversy over its possible units of analysis, and the nature of its relationship to other aspects of language, it may seem precipitous to begin to look for its origins in development. Intonation has traditionally been related to syntax, a position held by Halliday (1967, 1975a), Crystal (1969), and Ladd (1977). It has variably been tied to speaker attitude (Pike, 1945) and to particular speech act functions (Sag &Lieberman, 1975). A further school (e.g., Brazil, 1975, 1978) sees its relationship to discourse as primary. The most recent movement, spearheaded by Bolinger (1982) and Cruttenden (1981a), demonstrates that any analysis in terms of a relationship between intonation and a single aspect of language can be contradicted by a dozen examples. They posit a more ab-

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