Acoustic Analyses of Developmental Changes and Emotional Expression in the Preverbal Vocalizations of Infants

      Abstract

      The nonverbal vocal utterances of seven normally hearing infants were studied within their first year of life with respect to age- and emotion-related changes. Supported by a multiparametric acoustic analysis it was possible to distinguish one inspiratory and eleven expiratory call types. Most of the call types appeared within the first two months; some emerged in the majority of infants not until the 5th (“laugh”) or 7th month (“babble”). Age-related changes in acoustic structure were found in only 4 call types (“discomfort cry,” “short discomfort cry,” “wail,” “moan”). The acoustic changes were characterized mainly by an increase in harmonic-to-noise ratio and homogeneity of the call, a decrease in frequency range and a downward shift of acoustic energy from higher to lower frequencies. Emotion-related differences were found in the acoustic structure of single call types as well as in the frequency of occurrence of different call types. A change from positive to negative emotional state was accompanied by an increase in call duration, frequency range, and peak frequency (frequency with the highest amplitude within the power spectrum). Negative emotions, in addition, were characterized by a significantly higher rate of “crying,” “hic” and “ingressive vocalizations” than positive emotions, while positive emotions showed a significantly higher rate of “babble,” “laugh,” and “raspberry.”

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