Baby talk just isn’t given the respect it deserves. If you’ve ever had some well-meaning relative suggest that you should only use “real” words when talking to your baby, you’ve now got science on your side.
When parents call a train a choo-choo it doesn’t slow down a baby’s language development, it actually speeds it up.
A study out of the University of Edinburgh is proving that saying doggy instead of dog and night-night for goodnight is actually helping your baby learn language faster.
The researchers found that when 9-month-old babies hear a lot of diminutives ending in ‘y’ (like doggy, mommy, daddy, blankey) and reduplication (like choo-choo or night-night) they become faster at picking up new words during the next 11 months.
“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,” says the study’s lead researcher, Mitsuhiko Ota, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences.
His team looked at the language development of 47 babies who were learning to speak English and found that when moms and dads used “y” words and repetition, the babies vocabularies grew faster than if parents stuck to just so-called adult talk.
“At first glance, baby‐talk words would seem to be an impediment to language learning. Introducing words that already have apparent lexical equivalents (e.g., bunny as well as rabbit; tummy as well as stomach) means adding redundancy to the lexicon,” the researchers note. “[But] a growing body of literature is pointing to the possibility that baby‐talk words are more likely to be extracted and learned from the linguistic input than their adult lexical counterparts because they have certain characteristics that are in line with infants’ conceptual and perceptual predispositions.”
The team concluded that “even though words such as choo‐choo and bunny appear superfluous, they may play an important role in bootstrapping the development of the lexicon as a whole.”
So keep on babbling that baby talk, mama. By saying choo-choo now, you could be putting your baby on the fast track.