Do you speak motherese?

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But what on earth , are you now thinking, IS motherese? Do you know what motherese iiiiiiiiiis? Do you know? Doooooooo you? Oh yes you do! Yeeeeeeeeeeeees you do!!!!

Well… “Motherese” (or “parentese”) is the name that was given to Baby talk. It is a nonstandard form of speech used by adults in talking to toddlers and infants. It is now also referred to as “caregiver speech” or “infant/child directd speech”.

It is usually delivered with a “cooing” pattern of intonation different from that of normal adult speech: it is generally high in pitch, with many glissando (a glide from one pitch to another) variations that are more pronounced than those of normal speech. It frequently displays hyperarticulation and is characterized by the shortening and simplifying of words. In other words, it is similar to what is used by people when talking to their pets!

Though researchers do not all agree on this but according to Macquarie University in Sydney, the way we talk to children is key to building their ability to understand and create sentences of their own and motherese could serve this purpose: “We use changes in pitch and rhythm when we talk to children, and we emphasize important words. This is what children usually learn and produce first.”says Professor Katherine Demuth, Director of the Child Language Laboratory at the Centre for Language Sciences, Linguistics Department.  Studies suggest that this “motherese” or “parentese” helps children identify where words begin and end, and provides them with the clues needed to help them develop their own language skills.

Other studies have found that infants appear to detect syllable and phrase boundaries better when hearing motherese, and that infants spoken to with motherese appear to be better at identifying differences between consonants.

What about you?

Do you think that “motherese” is good for babies?




Link to Speech Pathology Australia Factsheet “Helping your baby to talk”

Source: Wikipedia, Macquarie University


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