Maternal singing in cross-cultural perspective

  • Trehub S
  • Unyk A
  • Trainor L
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Mothers were recorded as they informally sang a song of their choice, once to their infant and once in the infant's absence. Paired excerpts from different mothers were then presented to adult listeners, who were required to identify the infant-directed song in each pair. In Experiment 1, with singers and listeners of North American origin, infant-directed excerpts were identified with a high level of accuracy. Mothers in Experiment 2, all of Indian descent, sang Hindi songs in both contexts. Listeners of Indian and North American origin identified the infant-directed excerpts significantly better than chance, with women outperforming men and native Hindi speakers outperforming native English speakers. These findings document a distinctive style of singing to infants, some aspects of which are recognizable across cultures and musical systems. Cross-cultural differences in singing style and the relations between infantdirected song and speech are discussed. © 1993 Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Author-supplied keywords

  • cross-cultural
  • infants
  • mothers
  • singing

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  • Sandra E. Trehub

  • Anna M. Unyk

  • Laurel J. Trainor

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