British Journal of English Linguistics (BJEL)

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Motherese in Omani Arabic


Motherese, alternatively known as parentese, infant directed speech, or baby talk, is the spontaneous emotive manner in which mothers converse with their newborns and young children to establish mother-child communication. The occurrence of motherese in mother-child communication is attested cross-linguistically with variant extent and frequency in languages and cultures of the globe. Due to its distinct linguistic features that tease it out from adult directed speech, it is believed to have a positive role in facilitating and accelerating children’s acquisition of their mother tongue. Prominent linguistic features that characterize motherese are often the use of simplified constructions, specific lexical items intentionally meant for children, higher pitch, slower tempo, and prolonged pronunciation, among several other ones. The role these features play in enhancing children’s exposure to and comprehension of their mother tongue as well as the establishment of a compassionate mother-child relationship stand as the driving force behind its use by mothers from different walks of life cross-culturally. The Arab culture is not an exception to this tendency since motherese is attested in several varieties of Arabic. Omani Arabic as one member of these varieties does have motherese in its daily use; yet, it is not brought to light. In an attempt to sightsee such untraversed area and bring it to light, this paper is, thus, a humble endeavor to investigate the practice of using motherese among Omani mothers and children to establish mother-child communication. Results show that several features characterize Omani Arabic motherese, those that may conform to or differ from features that characterize baby talk in other languages and cultures.   


Keywords: Arabic, Oman, Omani Arabic, baby talk, infant directed speech, motherese

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