Listener-adapted speech:Bilinguals adapt in a more sensitive way

28 Feb 2018

© John Benjamins Publishing Company. While a significant amount of research has focussed on whether bilingualism bestows advantages in cognitive skills, perspective-taking and Theory of Mind, less is known about the effect of bilingualism in communicative tasks where these and related skills may be called for. This study examines bilingual and monolingual adults' communicative skills through their production of two types of listener-adapted speech (LAS): child-directed speech and foreigner-directed speech. 20 monolinguals and 20 bilingual adults were asked to explain a cooking recipe to a child, a non-native adult and a control native adult. Participants adapted their speech for the child and the foreigner compared to the native adult. Furthermore, bilinguals adapted some features of their speech to a greater extent and in a fine-tuned way (wider pitch range addressing the child and vowel hyperarticulation addressing the foreigner). The prevalence of these features in bilingual speech was not correlated with personality or cognitive measures. We discuss possible sources of this difference in speech adaptation and implications for theories of bilingual cognition.