For so many years, people have considered ‘motherese’ or baby talk to be silly or fun, but researchers have recently disclosed its importance.
The study has been published in the journal, Cell Biology by researchers at Princeton Baby Laboratory.
According to the researchers, “Baby talk is more than simply ‘cooing’ with the baby. It plays a major role in development of the child.”
The incomprehensible language with the adults helps the child to grasp all language complexities. It allows them to connect with the people and the world around.
The new study has shown that motherese is a ‘universal form of communication’ in different languages, mostly used by mothers. It’s just that mommies use different timbres (tonal quality) while talking with their little ones.
An examination was conducted on 24 mommies – 12 English speaking and 12 others speaking Russian, Spanish, and Hebrew. All of them were mothers of 7 – 12-month-old infants and were examined while they were interacting with their infants as well as other adults.
The research also showed that mothers change their timbre or tonal quality in a very specific way. Most of them do this to make their infants recognize their voice and pay attention to them.
The researchers also explained how the audio samples collected were evaluated. Experts designed an algorithm for assessing the samples. It took just 1 second to detect whether the mother was talking to the child or an adult.
For about 70% of the time, the system could ably differentiate the sounds of infant-directed talk and adult-talk.
As per a co-author of this research, Dr. Elise Piazza, “This work can also help a lot in developing educational tools for children.”
“For the first time, we found that mothers do shift their vocal timbre. It includes more exaggerated pitch, regular rhythmic patterns and even longer pauses,” she said.
Pia Socias, a participating mother raised as a bilingual, speaks in a higher pitch with her son. “I don’t know why but my tone is an octave higher when I’m speaking to Hugo in Spanish.”
Experts have also appreciated the study. Dr. Catherine Laing from the University of Cardiff, who wasn’t associated with this project, cited that the research is a fascinating one. She believes, this would open up newer opportunities ahead.
Researchers now wish to continue with this study and explore more on how this change of tone will help the child’s development process.