Top Cogn Sci. 2022 Nov 25. doi: 10.1111/tops.12632. Online ahead of print.
What is the function of immature vocalizing in early learning environments? Previous work on infants in the United States indicates that prelinguistic vocalizations elicit caregiver speech which is simplified in its linguistic structure. However, there is substantial cross-cultural variation in the extent to which children’s vocalizations elicit responses from caregivers. In the current study, we ask whether children’s vocalizations elicit similar changes in their immediate caregivers’ speech structure across two cultural sites with differing perspectives on how to interact with infants and young children. Here, we compare Tseltal Mayan and U.S. caregivers’ verbal responses to their children’s vocalizations. Similar to findings from U.S. dyads, we found that children from the Tseltal community regulate the statistical structure of caregivers’ speech simply by vocalizing. Following the interaction burst hypothesis, where clusters of child-adult contingent response alternations facilitate learning from limited input, we reveal a stable source of information that may facilitate language learning within ongoing interaction.