'Motherese' important for children's language development

May 6, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Talking to children has always been fundamental to language development, but new research reveals that the way we talk to children is key to building their ability to understand and create sentences of their own. The exaggerated speech we naturally use with young children is special register – often called ‘motherese’.

“We use changes in pitch and rhythm when we talk to , and we emphasize important words This is what children usually learn and produce first.”says Professor Katherine Demuth, Director of the Child Laboratory at the Centre for Language Sciences, Linguistics Department

But it’s not just mothers: fathers, older siblings and virtually anyone who talks to a young child naturally adopts child-directed speech, or ‘motherese’. Studies suggest that this helps children identify where words begin and end, and provides them with the clues needed to help them develop their own language skills.

“A child learning their first language is like an adult learning a second one: you have no idea what’s going on and it’s just one long speech stream. Child-directed speech helps unpack this for children and gives them the tools to help them identify sounds, syllables and finally words and ,” says Demuth.

Demuth recommends a simple method for developing language skills: talking and reading to children. “You aren’t teaching them language, you are just interacting with them, using words that help them develop their vocabulary sooner.”

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Half of people believe fake facts

December 7, 2016

Many people are prone to 'remembering' events that never happened, according to new research by the University of Warwick.

MRI scans detect 'brain rust' in schizophrenia

December 7, 2016

A damaging chemical imbalance in the brain may contribute to schizophrenia, according to research presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Annual Meeting in Hollywood, Florida.

Helping children achieve more in school

December 7, 2016

Not all children do well in school, despite being intellectually capable. Whilst parental relationships, motivation and self-concept all have a role to play, a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology ...

Want to give a good gift? Think past the 'big reveal'

December 6, 2016

Gift givers often make critical errors in gift selection during the holiday season, according to a new research article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

that_guy
not rated yet May 06, 2011
and yet, I'd like to point out that the children who talk most intelligently and clearly are also the children of parents who didn't baby talk their kids. So the interaction part is spot on, but influence of 'motherese' is complete and utter nonsense.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.