60-Second Science

Baby-Talking Adults Boost Infant Word Production

The more parents engage in one-on-one baby talk with their infants, the more words the child produced at age two. Allie Wilkinson reports.


[Baby talking]
It’s hard to resist. One look at those chubby cheeks, and the next you’re cooing: [man using baby voice] “Who’s a cute little baby?”
Now research finds that by using this style of speech to talk to babies, you may be helping their early language development. Adults using so-called baby talk provide particularly good phonetic examples—producing sounds that are clearer, longer and more distinct from each other.
Researchers used small digital recorders hidden in the vests of 11- and 14-month old babies to record the infants’ auditory environment. Thirty-second snippets were then analyzed to identify whether the parents used baby talk or regular speech, and whether speech occurred in one-on-one or group settings.
The more parents engaged in one-on-one baby talk, the more the baby babbled—which is a precursor to word production—and the more words they produced at age two. The study will appear in the journal Developmental Science. [Ramírez-Esparza, N.,García-Sierra A., & Kuhl, K. P. (under review), Look who is talking: Social variables linked to infants’ speech development.]  
So parents, looks like if you chat regularly with your child, you’ll soon be saying, “look who’s talking.”

—Allie Wilkinson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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