Speech acts addressed to Hadza infants in Tanzania: Cross-cultural comparison, speaker age, and camp livelihood

Monika Abels*, Andrew Kilale, Paul Vogt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This study deals with speech acts addressed to Hadza infants in Tanzania, a group that has traditionally lived off hunting and gathering. Three research questions are addressed: How do Hadza speech acts compare with those found in previous studies in other cultures? Are there differences between child and adult speakers? And do speech acts differ with camp livelihood patterns? Speech acts are seen as a part of language socialization, which reflects overarching cultural values and socialization goals. The results indicate that Hadza infants experience many requests for action/imperatives-a way of expressing hierarchies-more than the infants in the comparative cultural communities, in spite of the fact that hunter-gatherers have been described as egalitarian in the past. Children's and adults' speech acts differ in several ways: adults use more requests for action and information (questions) with infants, while children use more assertives. Finally, the comparison of camp livelihoods revealed differences mainly between camps living off tourism and those that are more isolated from outside influence. The former use more imperatives, the latter more vocatives. The results are discussed in terms of cultural change toward more hierarchical structure related to livelihood activities, particularly tourism, and different activities that children and adults engage in when interacting with infants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0142723720972000
Number of pages20
JournalFirst Language
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Nov 2020


  • speech acts
  • Hadza
  • hunter&#8211
  • gatherers
  • tourism
  • social change
  • imperatives
  • questions
  • assertives
  • vocatives
  • CARE


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