Dynamic Indicators of Mother-Infant Prosodic and Illocutionary Coordination

Eugene H. Buder, Anne S. Warlaumont, D. Kimbrough Oller, Lesya B. Chorna, The University of Memphis

This report introduces tools designed to detect and quantify ways in which caregivers and infants coordinate their face-to-face communicative interactions. The tools analyze this coordination at multiple levels, linking prosodic patterns to illocutionary aspects of prelinguistic discourse. Data include fundamental voice frequency and sound pressure level parameters extracted from recorded interactions and observers’ codings of vocalizations according to their perceived illocutionary forces. In this approach, we do not assume that the infants’ prosodic records associate categorically with any specific mature forms of linguistic or pragmatic constructs, but propose that the dyadic use of these parameters can be seen as evidence for the development of a foundational social system between mothers and infants upon which linguistic conventions can then be built. The tools are drawn accordingly from dynamic recurrence analysis and coupled-oscillators modeling and present possibilities for objective and quantitative indices of social interaction.