A Moment of Science

The Benefits Of Baby Talk

Do you think it is better to speak to a baby as you would an adult? Think again!

Caretaker with a happy baby

Photo: Tex Batmart (Flickr)

Engaging the language-learning center of your child's brain is easy as 'goo goo,' 'gah gah.'

We’ve all seen it, or rather heard it, happen. The presence of a baby will cause the speech of most adults to go up an octave. While many parents ‘coo’ and ‘goo’ away, other parents think it is a bad idea to talk to infants and children differently than they would talk to adults.

However, most research on the subject agrees that baby talk, or infant-directed speech, helps a child to acquire language skills.

What Is Baby Talk?

Baby talk is defined as “short, simple sentences coupled with higher pitch and exaggerated intonation” (ScienceDaily). And while some adults may feel silly using infant-directed speech, it seems that there might be some biological purpose to these altered speech patterns.

Baby talk has even been observed being used by non-human animals. A Moment Of Science reported on the use of baby talk by wild Rhesus monkeys in 2008.

Aiding Language Acquisition

Scientists researching the brains of mothers and their preverbal children have discovered that the centers of the brain that process language are more active in both mothers and babies when the mothers are using infant-directed speech.

It has also been shown that children prefer speakers who use baby talk and actually acquire language faster when their parents use baby talk.

So feel free to babble away at your baby. You aren’t doing any harm; in fact, you are stimulating your child’s brain and helping him or her to learn language faster!

Read More:

Carnegie Mellon Study: Adults’ Baby Talk Helps Infants Learn To Speak (ScienceDaily)

‘Baby Talk’ May Play Key Role in Language Acquisition (Bloomberg Businessweek)

From Birth, Engage Your Child With Talk (The New York Times)

Erin Sweany

Erin is a graduate student at Indiana University studying early English medical texts. Erin has studied both science and literature throughout her academic career. She loves science for what it tells us about our world and literature for what it tells us about our culture. Erin combines these interests in her scholarship and writing as much as possible.

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