What About Baby Talk?
May 31, 2017Has anyone ever told you that you should speak to your baby like you speak to an adult? Is it possible that you can offer a baby just a little too much ‘respect?’ Good questions….
The first question is…does respect look and sound the same regardless of the age of the person, or the nature of our relationship? Of course it doesn’t! We show respect to our bosses and grandmothers by using different language and tone of voice than we do with our buddies, certainly. One of the hallmarks of respect is communication that can be understood by the other person, so teenage slang doesn’t play with grandmothers. And…adult tones of voice are actually not what babies need as they learn about social communication. They need something called ‘motherese,’ ‘parentese,’ or ‘infant-directed speech.’
This kind of communication is actually adopted unconsciously by most adults and older children when speaking with a baby, and is characterized by elongated vowels, higher pitch, musicality and repetition. These qualities of speech are offered up automatically, out of the right side of the brain, as a time-tested way of making the communication understandable and engaging to the baby. And what is it that the baby is learning from this ‘baby talk?’ He is learning about love, that communication transmits emotions, and is an avenue for building relationships.
Of course he is also learning vocabulary, syntax, and sentence structure on some level that won’t show up for many months, so even in using infant-directed speech, we can use the proper words for things and decent grammar. But if you’ve ever been made to feel like you shouldn’t call your darling Snookiekins, relax and appreciate her joyful, wide-eyed interest. Mother Nature would approve!