Henrike Frye

Henrike Frye studied linguistics and philosophy at the universities of Erfurt and Pavia. She did her doctorate at the University of Cologne within the project ‘Documenting child language: The Qaqet of Papua New Guinea’, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation’s Lichtenberg program. She has worked on documenting language and cultural knowledge in Yucatec Maya (Mexico) and Qaqet (PNG). Her areas of research include language documentation and description, language acquisition, anthropological linguistics and their intersection with local biological knowledge.

Child-directed Speech in Qaqet »

A Language of East New Britain, Papua New Guinea

Authored by: Henrike Frye
Publication date: 2022
Qaqet is a non-Austronesian language, spoken by about 15,000 people in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. In the remote inland, children acquire Qaqet as their first language. Much of what we know about child‑directed speech (CDS) stems from children living in middle‑class, urban, industrialised contexts. This book combines evidence from different methods, showing that the features typical for speech to children in such contexts are also found in Qaqet CDS. Preliminary insights from naturalistic audio recordings suggest that Qaqet children are infrequently addressed directly. In interviews, Qaqet caregivers express the view that children ‘pick up’ the language on their own. Still, they have clear ideas about how to talk to children in a way that makes it easier for them to understand what is said. In order to compare adult- and child-directed speech in Qaqet, 20 retellings of a film have been analysed, half of them told to adults and half to children. The data show that talk directed to children differs from talk directed to adults for several features, among them utterance type, mean length of utterance, amount of hesitations and intonation. Despite this clear tendency, there seems to be a cut-off point of around 40 months of age for several of those features from which the talk directed to children becomes more like the one directed to adults.

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