Forschungsprojekt AVarE

Akustisch-phonetische Variabilität in kind- und erwachsenen-gerichteter Sprache bei Eltern während der frühkindlichen Erziehung (AVarE)

DFG WE 5757, Laufzeit April 2016 - September 2019

Projektleiter: Melanie Weirich

Kooperation mit Universität Stockholm (Christine Ericsdotter Nordgren & Jasmine Öjbro)

The project investigates the potential relationship between typical phonetic correlates of careful speech and gender-specific roles - here, in the function of a primary caregiver of an infant. The focus of the study does not lie solely on infant-directed speech, but in particular on the potential impact of being the primary caregiver on adult-directed speech. By investigating this aspect in Germany and Sweden cross-linguistic and cross-cultural analyses can be made.
Furthermore, Sweden is particularly interesting due to its leading position in gender equality and the compatibility of family and work in Europe since the 1970s. Thus, the ongoing change of the conventional gender roles will be reflected in this analysis. Moreover, the longstanding debate on the potential influencing factors of being the primary caregiver on gender-specific differences in clarity of speech is addressed.

Acoustic recordings of read and spontaneous speech of 35 German and Swedish mothers and 35 German and Swedish fathers differing in time of parental leave are made at four time points (before the birth of the child, during parental leave (2 time points) and after parental leave). The investigated phonetic correlates of clear speech comprise the temporal aspect of segment durations and the spectral parameters acoustic vowel space, realization of sibilant contrast and modulation of speaking fundamental frequency.

The aims of the project are subdivided into two main objectives: a) the investigation of a change towards an enhancement of speech clarity in infant-directed speech in fathers (and mothers), and a possible effect of the duration of parental leave; and b) the potential change in the fathers phonetic correlates of clear speech also in adult-directed speech (resulting in a decrease in gender-specific differences), during, or even after parental leave.


  • Weirich, M., Simpson, A. P., Öjbro, J., & Ericsdotter Nordgren, C. (2019). The phonetics of gender in Swedish and German. In Proceedings of FONETIK 2019 (pp. 49–53).
  • Weirich M. & Simpson, A. (2018) Gender identity is indexed and perceived in speech. PLoS ONE 13(12):e0209226. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0209226
  • Weirich, M. & Simpson,  A. (2017) Acoustic correlates of parental role and gender identity in the speech of expecting parents, Interspeech, Stockholm, 924-928. [pdf]
  • Weirich, M. & Simpson, A. (2016) Changes in IDS and ADS during parental leave - project sketch and first results of pilot studies. Proceedings of the 12th meeting on "Phonetik und Phonologie im deutschsprachigen Raum" (P&P12), Munich, 224-227. [pdf]
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