'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

Depression changes structure of the brain, study suggests

July 21, 2017
Changes in the brain's structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

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.