An ELT Glossary : Caretaker speech

  • Definition : The simplified form of speech used by people who think the listener has limited linguistic and/or intellectual competence eg parents talking to very young children, native speakers to foreigners, carers to the senile etc etc, which will use eg short, simple syntax, a slow rate of delivery, concrete high frequency lexis, repetition, and frequent reference to the "here and now" situation to make meaning clear.

  • Example : Mother to child - Where's teddy? Oh look - there's teddy. He's on the chair. The mother knows perfectly well where the teddy is, but uses the question, the "pretend" realisation and answer to communicate in a way the child will understand rather than : Right, we need to clear up all these toys now.

  •  A difference between caretaker speech directed to native speakers and to non-native speakers is that "foreigner talk" often includes ungrammatical items of the type the speaker believes the listener will use - eg "You no like?"