A new study shows that when parents force their babies to talk to their babies, they can actually help children learn to say real words.
The study, conducted by researchers from McGill University and the University of Florida, found that mimicking the sound of a smaller vocal tract – like the one used in infant conversation birth or “infant speech” – can give an infant clues as to what words should look like. sound coming from their mouth.
According to research, baby talk is when parents use appropriate words spoken with higher pitch, slower speed and exaggerated singsong pronunciation. Not only is this engaging for babies, the researchers say, but it can also help them learn to understand what their parents are saying.
“It seems to stimulate the motor that produces speech, not just the perception of speech,” said Matthew Masapollo, study co-author and assistant professor at the University of Florida. “It’s not just goo-goo ga-ga.”
The findings were published Friday in the peer-reviewed Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research.
To conduct the study, the researchers changed the sound frequencies of the voice to mimic the voices of an infant or an adult. They then tested how the infants responded to each sound by letting them hear it.
A small larynx, like what babies have, leads to a higher sound, while an adult’s large larynx produces a lower pitch, according to the study.
The researchers analyzed more than 60 infants’ responses and found that infants between the ages of six and eight months “show a distinct and distinct preference for speech with echoes indicating a clear line sounds similar in size and length to their own.”
However, babies between 4 and 6 months old don’t have that preference, according to the study. This suggests that older babies’ ability to control their voices and produce non-babbling words may be responsible for making infant-like sounds “more appealing,” the researchers say. .
“This finding, together with data showing that this preference is absent in younger children and appears to increase with age, suggests that the nascent knowledge of the locomotor schema of the vocal tract can play a role in the formation of this perceptual bias, supporting current models of speech development,” the study’s authors wrote.
While baby talk sounds simple, study co-author and associate professor at McGill Linda Polka says it actually “gets a lot” in regards to baby development.
“We’re trying to interact with babies to show them something about vocalization,” Polka said in a release. “We’re preparing them to process their own voices.”
While parents sometimes discourage children from talking, research reports that patterns associated with that style of speech “can be an important component in helping infants speak” and should be continued with Infant.