Preschoolers use prosodic mitigation strategies to encode polite stance

Iris Hübscher, Martina Garufi, Pilar Prieto


While prosody has been shown to act as a syntactic bootstrapper in early language acquisition, little is known about the role that prosody plays in the later development of a child’s ability to communicate pragmatic information such as the expression of politeness. The goal of this paper is to investigate whether preschool children use prosody earlier and more prominently than lexical and morphosyntactic cues to signal a polite stance. To this end, 64 three- to five-year-old Catalan-dominant children participated in a cross-sectional study involving a request production task under four different conditions, with interlocutors either a classmate or an unfamiliar adult (low/high social distance), and the ‘cost’ to the interlocutor’s face either low or high. The results showed that preschool children tend to use mitigating prosodic strategies to encode a polite stance early on and more markedly than they use lexical or morphosyntactic markers. These findings are consistent with what other research has found regarding the prosodic mitigation strategies used by Catalan-speaking adults to mark polite stance.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-52

Cite as: Hübscher, I., Garufi, M., Prieto, P. (2018) Preschoolers use prosodic mitigation strategies to encode polite stance. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 255-259, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-52.


@inproceedings{Hübscher2018,
  author={Iris Hübscher and Martina Garufi and Pilar Prieto},
  title={Preschoolers use prosodic mitigation strategies to encode polite stance},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018},
  pages={255--259},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-52},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-52}
}