A recent study reveals that Baby talk known as “parentese” – typified by high-pitched, slow-paced speaking – may help newborns learn languages. Infant language development has long been connected to parents’ verbal interactions with their children.
Early in life, infants begin to learn to control their vocal and articulatory movements by effectively monitoring the time-varying patterns of auditory and tactile sensations created by their vocal activity and relating it to the patterns they experience in the ambient speech environment. This process begins in the first year of life.
As an attention-grabber, baby babble can be useful. Studies show that newborns enjoy listening to speech that is specifically geared toward them. Babies who pay greater attention to what is being said may be more likely to pick up on the statistical patterns inherent in what is being spoken.
Speaking baby speak to a baby isn’t only adorable; it’s also a great way to communicate with them. It might assist kids learn how to compose sentences and paragraphs.
Intuitively, we communicate to newborns in a way that appeals to them as well as helps them learn to comprehend us. Researchers at the University of Florida have discovered a previously undiscovered advantage of baby talk: helping newborns learn to speak on their own. Using a little vocal tract to simulate the sound of a baby’s own lips, experts believe we’re helping them learn how to pronounce their own words naturally.
According to Matthew Masapollo, an assistant professor in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at the University of Florida, “It seems to stimulate motor production, not just the perception of speech.”
Infants were tested on how they behaved when researchers altered the frequency of the sounds to match either a baby or adult vocal tracts. Six to eight-month-old newborns “shown a powerful and clear preference for speech with resonances suggesting a vocal tract that is comparable in size and length to their own,” they stated. Babies that were four to six months old did not show this preference, suggesting that older babies’ developing ability to regulate their voices and construct words from babbling may be the reason why infant-like sounds are more attractive.
Linda Polka, Ph.D., of McGill University, co-author of the study, believes that even though infant babble sounds simple, it’s doing a lot. “We’re engaging with the newborn to show them something about speech creation,” she added. Preparation for processing their own voice is the goal.
Baby chatter, which is often discouraged by parents, might be an important component in helping newborns learn to speak. This type of “infant-directed speech” has been studied by Masapollo and Polka.
Setting the Stage for Speech Production: Infants Prefer Listening to Speech Sounds With Infant Vocal Resonances-Linda Polka, Matthew Masapollo and Lucie Ménard: https://doi.org/10.1044/2021_JSLHR-21-00412