A study by the University of York and Aarhus University has revealed that baby talk displays similar properties across 36 languages.
‘Baby talk’ or infant directed speech (IDS) refers to the way caregivers talk to young infants, and generally includes a high-pitched, slow-paced, animated speech.
This spontaneous, automatic and intuitive way of speaking has been studied for decades to understand why human beings communicate in this way with infants and what it might suggest about child development.
The York and Aarhus team addressed the question of whether IDS had a universal quality — does it, for example, have the same properties in English as it does in other languages? They also addressed whether this changes as the child’s grasp on language and speech increases.
Using a meta-analytic method, they examined all previous studies that investigated sound properties of IDS and asked what these revealed about its function in child language development. They found that certain features of IDS, such as pitch, melody, and articulation rates have the same properties across most of the world’s languages.
How much caregivers exaggerate the differences between vowel sounds, however, was markedly different across the languages.
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