Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Short Communication

Which came first: Infants learning language or motherese?

Heather Bortfeld a1
a1 Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843


Although motherese may facilitate language acquisition, recent findings indicate that not all aspects of motherese are necessary for word recognition and speech segmentation, the building blocks of language learning. Rather, exposure to input that has prosodic, phonological, and statistical consistencies is sufficient to jump-start the learning process. In light of this, the infant-directedness of the input might be considered superfluous, at least insofar as language acquisition is concerned.