First Advisor

Lynn Santelmann

Term of Graduation

Winter 2000

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




Language acquisition -- Parent participation, Father and child



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 133 pages)


The speech that mothers use when addressing adults has consistently been shown to exhibit modifications when the conversation partner is their language-learning child. Fathers adopt similar changes in the structural linguistic aspects of their Child Directed Speech (CDS), but their patterns of discourse remain more of a challenge for the child. This contrast in parental language is thought to be beneficial to the language-learning child: a mother's language focuses on the child as a conversation partner, whilst a father's more demanding language is considered a "Bridge" between the mother's and that of adults in the outside world. With family roles changing in American society, more mothers are working, and an increasing number of men are primary caregivers. As these fathers assume the traditional "mother" role, do they also assume the relevant features of that speech?

This study looked at five stay-at-home and five traditional dad-child dyads, as they interacted in the naturalistic setting of their own homes. By examining specific features of discourse that mothers and fathers use in addressing their language-learning children, it was hoped to discover whether the language of stay-at-home dads is the same as that of traditional dads, or whether it has assumed more of the well-documented conversation-supporting features of mothers' CDS.

The findings of this study suggest that the language of the stay-at-home dad is more sensitive to the child. It was found to include more instances of those characteristics of speech that are considered conversation-supporting (repetition, expansion, acknowledgement and restatement) and fewer of some of those thought to cause, or indicate, breakdown in parent-child conversation (directives, non-acknowledgement and corrections). Surprisingly, the stay-at-home dads also asked more non-specific questions, requested more confirmation and clarification, and asked fewer "wh" and yes/no questions. However, when the actual language was examined, it was found that the stay-at-home dads were using these features in ways not described in the literature, so that these supposedly non-supportive features were actually promoting father-child interaction.


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