'Motherese' important for children's language development

May 6, 2011, Macquarie University

(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

Short-course treatment for combat-related PTSD offers expedited path to recovery

January 23, 2018
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be debilitating and standard treatment can take months, often leaving those affected unable to work or care for their families. But, a new study demonstrated that many ...

Curcumin improves memory and mood, study says

January 23, 2018
Lovers of Indian food, give yourselves a second helping: Daily consumption of a certain form of curcumin—the substance that gives Indian curry its bright color—improved memory and mood in people with mild, age-related ...

Priming can negate stressful aspects of negative sporting environments, study finds

January 23, 2018
The scene is ubiquitous in sports: A coach yells at players, creating an environment where winning is the sole focus and mistakes are punished. New research from the University of Kansas shows that when participants find ...

Social and emotional skills linked to better student learning

January 23, 2018
Students with well-developed and adaptive social and emotional behaviours are most likely to excel in school, according to UNSW researchers in educational psychology.

Study of learning and memory problems in OCD helps young people unlock potential at school

January 22, 2018
Adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have widespread learning and memory problems, according to research published today. The findings have already been used to assist adolescents with OCD obtain the help ...

People with prosthetic arms less affected by common illusion

January 22, 2018
People with prosthetic arms or hands do not experience the "size-weight illusion" as strongly as other people, new research shows.

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.