Babies like baby talk

Do parents who get carried away babbling to their baby annoy you? Don’t let them! It’s precisely that kind of baby talk, which clearly stresses syllables, that helps a child to learn its language. This has emerged from PhD research conducted by linguist Brigitta Keij at Utrecht University.

Isn’t he cute? Yes, you’re so cute, aren’t you?

She studied the language development of babies aged four to eight months. They can’t speak yet, but they’re already learning to understand the features of language. ‘In regular speech, all of the words are already stuck together. Babies have to learn how to recognise where words begin and end before they can learn words.’ The study showed that parents’ baby talk helps to clearly indicate word boundaries. ‘Speech directed at babies, with the familiar patterns of stress, drew more of the babies’ attention.’ As a result of the alternating rhythm, the babies recognised more structure than in normal speech and hence listened more attentively.

Read more in ExperimentNL

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