Baby Talk Words Build Infants’ Language Skills

Summary: According to researchers, using baby talk words such as ‘bunny’ and ‘choo choo’ can help boost language acquisition in infants between 9 and 21 months.

Source: University of Edinburgh.

The more baby talk words that infants are exposed to the quicker they grasp language, a study suggests.

Assessments of nine-month-old children suggest that those who hear words such as bunny or choo-choo more frequently are faster at picking up new words between nine and 21 months.

Researchers say these findings suggest some types of baby talk words – more than other words – can help infants develop their vocabulary more quickly.

The team says words that end in ‘y’ – such as tummy, mummy and doggy – or words that repeat sounds – such as choo-choo and night-night – could help infants identify words in speech.

Linguists at the University of Edinburgh recorded samples of speech addressed to 47 infants learning English.

They checked the speech addressed to each infant for features that characterise baby talk words.

As well as analysing so-called diminutives ending in ‘y’ and reduplication – which contains repeated syllables – they checked for onomatopoeic words that sound like their meaning, such as woof and splash.

They examined the rate of the infants’ language development by measuring the size of the children’s vocabulary at nine, 15 and 21 months.

a baby

The team says words that end in ‘y’ – such as tummy, mummy and doggy – or words that repeat sounds – such as choo-choo and night-night – could help infants identify words in speech. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

They found that infants who heard a higher proportion of diminutive words and words with repeated syllables developed their language more quickly between nine and 21 months.

They did not find this effect on vocabulary growth for onomatopoeic baby talk words.

Lead researcher Mitsuhiko Ota, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said: “Our findings suggest that diminutives and reduplication, which are frequently found in baby talk words – across many different languages – can facilitate the early stage of vocabulary development.”

About this neuroscience research article

Funding: The research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Source: Joanne Morrison – University of Edinburgh
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Open access research for “Why Choo‐Choo Is Better Than Train: The Role of Register‐Specific Words in Early Vocabulary Growth” by Mitsuhiko Ota, Nicola Davies‐Jenkins, and Barbora Skarabela in Cognitive Science. Published July 11 2018.
doi:10.1111/cogs.12628

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University of Edinburgh”Baby Talk Words Build Infants’ Language Skills.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 1 August 2018.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/baby-talk-language-development-9642/>.
University of Edinburgh(2018, August 1). Baby Talk Words Build Infants’ Language Skills. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved August 1, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/baby-talk-language-development-9642/
University of Edinburgh”Baby Talk Words Build Infants’ Language Skills.” http://neurosciencenews.com/baby-talk-language-development-9642/ (accessed August 1, 2018).

Abstract

Why Choo‐Choo Is Better Than Train: The Role of Register‐Specific Words in Early Vocabulary Growth

Across languages, lexical items specific to infant‐directed speech (i.e., ‘baby‐talk words’) are characterized by a preponderance of onomatopoeia (or highly iconic words), diminutives, and reduplication. These lexical characteristics may help infants discover the referential nature of words, identify word referents, and segment fluent speech into words. If so, the amount of lexical input containing these properties should predict infants’ rate of vocabulary growth. To test this prediction, we tracked the vocabulary size in 47 English‐learning infants from 9 to 21 months and examined whether the patterns of growth can be related to measures of iconicity, diminutives, and reduplication in the lexical input at 9 months. Our analyses showed that both diminutives and reduplication in the input were associated with vocabulary growth, although measures of iconicity were not. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that phonological properties typical of lexical input in infant‐directed speech play a role in early vocabulary growth.

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