Every parent is guilty of using that syrupy sweet, googly-woogly, baby speak at least a little when their adorable infants are cooing back at them. And while you might be embarrassed at the thought of anyone not in diapers hearing you speak that way, the truth is that baby talk is a highly evolved language.
Baby talk, also known as “motherese,” was the subject of a recent study at Princeton. According to Newsweek, the researchers discovered an important component of that lovey-dovey voice you use when talking to your baby, which is actually a vital-part of the language-learning process. They found that a shift in timbre or tone is universal among mothers across the globe communicating with their babies. Regardless of the language spoken, it is the timbre or the tone of voice that is critical to this developmental step. While “motherese” has been a long-acknowledged language tool, it wasn’t until now that timbre was pinpointed as being so critical to its use. Researchers aren’t sure why this shift is so important, but it seems that most mothers seem to do it unconsciously, and it might be due to the fact that they are suddenly hyper-focused on their infants.
For the study, researchers recorded 12 English-speaking moms as they played with and read to their babies, ages seven months to a year old. They also recorded the women’s voices as they spoke to other adults. Then, using a voice-analysis program they measured the timber of the baby interactions versus the adult ones. There was a clear change of timber in the interactions with the babies. Researchers later conducted the same experiment with mothers who spoke other languages, including Russian, Spanish, German, French, Mandarin and more and received the same results.
Do you find yourself changing your voice when you talk to your baby? Tell us in the comments below.