A Special Education Teacher’s Use of Babytalk in the Classroom at Junior High School

  • Yi-Shan Lee

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This study aims to investigate the frequency, pattern, and effect of a special education teacher’s babytalk in the classroom at junior high school. The participants were one special education teacher and nine mentally retarded students. The data included 450-minute audio-recordings of ten classes from a nine-week long observation, the researcher’s field notes, and a semi-structured interview with the special education teacher. The data were examined utterance by utterance to see the occurrence of Chinese babytalk, defined as higher in pitch, clearer in articulation, more repetitions, and more sentence final particles in discourse. The researcher later divided the utterance into thirty-six topics according to the concepts conveyed by the teacher. The result showed that the teacher used babytalk frequently. The frequency of occurrence of babytalk of all the thirty-six topics was over 50%. The way she used babytalk was related to the students’ mental age and the relevancy of topics to students’ daily experience. The teacher used more babytalk to mentally “younger” students, who were usually multi-handicapped or with severe mental retardation. She also used more babytalk to explain concepts less related to students’ daily lives. Her babytalk was characterized by high intonation. With regard to the effect of this babytalk, the students made attentive and comprehensive responses to the teacher’s babytalk, which accounted for 70% of all student responses. The teacher in the interview confirmed that she used babytalk to achieve teaching ends ― to attract the students’ attention and make them more focused on the content of her teaching.
Date of Award2008
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHui-Tzu Min (Supervisor)

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