Third International Workshop on Models and Analysis of Vocal Emissions for Biomedical Applications (MAVEBA 2003)

Florence, Italy
December 10-12, 2003

Time Variations of the Fundamental Frequency (Melody) and Resonance Frequencies in Infant's Crying – Key Parameters for Pre-Speech Development

Werner Mende (1), Kathleen Wermke (2)

(1) Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science, Berlin, Germany
(2) Center for pre-speech development and developmental disorders, Department of Orthodontics, Julius-Maximilians-University Würzburg, Germany

The ability to perceive and to produce the time varying fundamental frequency (melody) is an extremely important component of auditory information and a fundamental aspect of language. The fundamental frequency is an essential parameter of prosody.
   In adult language perception, prosody can guide the syntactic analysis of spoken sentences. Concerning infant language perception it was shown that young infants recognize utterances in their language based on prosodic cues before they become sensitive to its segmental characteristics. Speakers use the F0 modulation to stress particular elements in an utterance or to indicate the beginning or end of a syntactic phrase.
   Recently, Drayna et al. demonstrated in a twin study the influence of genes on the ability to recognize correct pitch and melodies. They could show that the perception of pitch is highly heritable. Research examining patients with brain damage has indicated that melodic information may be processed primarily by a cortical system in the right hemisphere. A close link between the processing of melodies and the processing of language has been demonstrated in a recent study by Maess et al. who found that music processing involves a neural network normally seen to be active during language processing. This finding strongly supports a direct relationship between the processing of language and music from a functional and neuroanatomical view.
   The importance of F0 and related parameters is also well described for infant's and children's sound production. The importance is not only given by research results in the framework of “cry-diagnosis”, but also by findings within the field of pre-speech development and language acquisition. Moreover, the interaction between laryngeal (melody) and pharyngeal (resonance frequencies) activity is one of the key aspects for prespeech research. Tuning processes between the cry melody and resonance frequencies are preparatory activities for an intentional articulation in speech.

Full Paper (reprinted with permission from Firenze University Press)

Bibliographic reference.  Mende, Werner / Wermke, Kathleen (2003): "Time variations of the fundamental frequency (melody) and resonance frequencies in infant's crying – key parameters for pre-speech development", In MAVEBA-2003, 33-34.