Advertisement

Mothering Tongues: Anthropological Perspectives on Language and the Mother-Infant Nexus

  • Sallie HanEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Bioarchaeology and Social Theory book series (BST)

Abstract

While early-life experiences shape and influence the health and well-being of individuals over the course of their lifetimes (and even that of generations to come), the experiences of children and childhood also can be quite diverse. Ethnographies of parenting remind us there is no single correct or even optimal way to raise children. In studies of children and language, it is clear that children—raised in diverse contexts and conditions according to the various practices and ideas of their communities—all become competently and even successfully linguistic, cognitive, cultural, and social beings. This point seems to be missed currently in so much of the popular advice, policy, and research on language and children, even though it is understood that infancy and even pregnancy, as well as early childhood, are critical periods of human development. To this end, the focus in this chapter will be on the concerns that have been raised in recent years in the United States about language and the mother–infant nexus. Drawing from ethnographic research on pregnancy and parenting in the U.S., I consider the claims that have been made about the practices currently prescribed to parents for cultivating their children’s engagements with language and literacy. I suggest these must be recognised as particular to the context and condition of American middle-class pregnancy and parenting.

Keywords

Reproduction Pregnancy Foetus Language Talk Word gap 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The study on pediatrics and literacy was supported by a SUNY Oneonta Faculty Research Grant and undertaken with the cooperation of the Research Institute at Bassett Medical Center, Cooperstown, NY.

References

  1. Avineri, N., & Johnson, E. J. (2015). Invited forum: Bridging the ‘language gap’—Introduction. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 25(1), 67–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baquedano-Lopez, P. (2004). Literacy practices across learning contexts. In A. Duranti (Ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 245–268). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  3. Classen, C. (1997). Worlds of sense: Exploring the senses in history and across cultures. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. de Boer, B., & Kuhl, P. K. (2003). Investigating the role of infant-directed speech with a computer model. Acoustics Research Letter Online, 4(4), 129–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. De Casper, A., & Spence, M. (1986). Prenatal maternal speech influences newborns’ perception of speech sounds. Infant Behavior and Development, 9(2), 133–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Evans, M. D. R., Kelley, J., Sikora, J., & Treiman, D. J. (2010). Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 28(2), 171–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Evans, M. D. R., Kelley, J., & Sikora, J. (2014). Scholarly culture and academic performance in 42 nations. Social Forces, 92(4), 1573–1605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ferguson, C. (1977). Baby talk as a simplified register. In C. Snow & C. Ferguson (Eds.), Talking to children: Language input and acquisition (pp. 219–236). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Gadomski, A. M., & Han, S. (2015, April 25–28). Rewards and relationships fostered by Reach Out and Read (ROR). Paper presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  10. Han, S. (2009). Making room for daddy: Men’s ‘belly talk’ in the contemporary United States. In M. Inhorn, T. Tjornhoj-Thomsen, H. Goldberg, & M. la Cour Mosegaard (Eds.), Reconceiving the second sex: Men, masculinity, and reproduction (pp. 305–326). New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  11. Han, S. (2013). Pregnancy in practice: Expectation and experience in the contemporary United States. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  12. Han, S. (2018). Reproduction and language. In K. Hall & R. Barrett (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of language and sexuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190212926.013.52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Han, S., & Gadomski, A. (2014, November 6). A healthy love of reading: Preliminary findings from a study on literacy practices at the pediatric well child visit. Paper presented at the 2014 meeting of the life of the mind faculty showcase, SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta, NY.Google Scholar
  14. Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.Google Scholar
  15. Hays, S. (1996). The cultural contradictions of motherhood. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Heath, S. B. (2001[1982]). What no bedtime story means: Narrative skills at home and school. In A. Duranti (Ed.), Linguistic anthropology: A reader (pp. 343–363). New York: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  17. Henry, L. (2001, August). What’s going on in your baby’s mind? Baby Talk.Google Scholar
  18. High, P. C., & Klass, P. (2014). Literacy promotion: An essential component of primary care pediatric practice. Pediatrics, 134, 404–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Horowitz-Kraus, T., & Hutton, J. S. (2015). From emergent literacy to reading: How learning to read changes a child’s brain. Acta Paediatrica, 104(7), 648–656.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Horowitz-Kraus, T., Vannest, J. J., Gozdas, E., & Holland, S. K. (2014). Greater utilization of neural-circuits related to executive functions is associated with better reading: A longitudinal fMRI study using the verb generation task. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Howes, D. (2005). Empire of the senses: A sensual culture reader. New York: Berg.Google Scholar
  22. Hutton, J. S., Horowitz-Kraus, T., DeWitt, T., & Holland, S. K. (2015, April 25–28). Greater parent-child reading increases activation of brain networks supporting emergent literacy in 3-5 year-old children: An fMRI study. Paper presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  23. Ingold, T. (2000). The perception of the environment: Essays in livelihood, dwelling, and skill. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Ivry, T. (2010). Embodying culture: Pregnancy in Japan and Israel. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kulick, D. (1992). Language shift and cultural reproduction: Socialization, self, and syncretism in a Papua New Guinean Village. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Kulick, D., & Schieffelin, B. (2004). Language socialization. In A. Duranti (Ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 347–368). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  27. Maher, J. M., Fraser, S., & Wright, J. (2010). Framing the mother: Childhood obesity, maternal responsibility and care. Journal of Gender Studies, 19(3), 233–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McCarty, T. L. (2015). Invited forum: Bridging the ‘language gap’—How the logic of gap discourse perpetuates education inequality: A view from the ethnography of language policy. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 25(1), 70–72.Google Scholar
  29. Morgan, L. (1997). Imagining the unborn in the Ecuadorian Andes. Feminist Studies, 23(2), 323–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ochs, E., & Schieffelin, B. (1984). Language acquisition and socialization: Three developmental stories and their implications. In R. Shweder & R. Levine (Eds.), Culture theory: Essays on mind, self, and emotion (pp. 276–322). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Pancsofar, N. (2010). Fathers’ early contributions to children’s language development in families from low-income rural communities. Early Child Research Quarterly, 25(4), 450–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sontag, L. W., & Wallace, R. F. (1935). The movement response of the human fetus to sound stimuli. Child Development, 6(4), 253–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Too Small to Fail. (2018). Mission. http://toosmall.org/mission. Accessed 14 Dec 2018.
  34. Voegtline, K. M., Costigan, K. A., Pater, H. A., & DiPietro, J. A. (2013). Near-term fetal response to maternal spoken voice. Infant Behavior and Development, 36(4), 526–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Walker, D., Grimwade, J., & Wood, C. (1971). Intrauterine noise: A component of the fetal environment. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 109(1), 91–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Zentella, A. C. (2015). Invited forum: bridging the ‘language gap’—Books as the magic bullet. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 25(1), 75–77.Google Scholar
  37. Zuckerman, B., & Khandekar, A. (2010). Reach Out and Read: Evidence based approach to promoting early child development. Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 22(4), 539–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, SUNY OneontaOneontaUSA

Personalised recommendations