This article focuses on how growing children use prosody for communicative purposes. Prosody refers to the set of expressive features that do not so much determine what speakers say, but rather how they say it. It includes both auditory features, such as intonation and tempo, and visual features, such as facial expressions. Our central hypothesis is that children, as they grow older, become more socially aware — a process which is reflected in the way they express themselves in prosody. To this end, we present the results of three studies that focus on how children use such features (1) to mark their level of uncertainty, (2) to signal a positive or negative emotion, and (3) to show whether they are being truthful or not. All the studies use a game-based experimental paradigm that is especially suited for analyses of child behaviour. The approach combines controlled elicitations of spontaneous interactions with perception tests that explore how children's expressions are being interpreted. Results of such studies are relevant for pedagogical and diagnostic purposes, and will lead to improvements in child-directed communication systems.
© 2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston