Baby talk words build infants' language skills, study shows

baby talk
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The more baby talk words that infants are exposed to the quicker they grasp language, a study suggests.

Assessments of nine-month-old children suggest that those who hear words such as bunny or choo-choo more frequently are faster at picking up new words between nine and 21 months.

Researchers say these findings suggest some types of baby talk words—more than other words—can help infants develop their vocabulary more quickly.

The team says words that end in 'y' - such as tummy, mummy and doggy—or words that repeat sounds—such as choo-choo and night-night—could help infants identify words in speech.

Linguists at the University of Edinburgh recorded samples of speech addressed to 47 infants learning English.

They checked the speech addressed to each infant for features that characterise baby talk words.

As well as analysing so-called diminutives ending in 'y' and reduplication—which contains repeated syllables—they checked for onomatopoeic words that sound like their meaning, such as woof and splash.

They examined the rate of the infants' development by measuring the size of the children's vocabulary at nine, 15 and 21 months.

They found that who heard a higher proportion of diminutive words and words with repeated syllables developed their language more quickly between nine and 21 months.

They did not find this effect on for onomatopoeic baby talk words.

Lead researcher Mitsuhiko Ota, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said: "Our findings suggest that diminutives and reduplication, which are frequently found in words—across many different languages—can facilitate the early stage of vocabulary development."


Explore further

Baby talk words with repeated sounds help infants learn language

More information: Mitsuhiko Ota et al, Why Choo-Choo Is Better Than Train : The Role of Register-Specific Words in Early Vocabulary Growth, Cognitive Science (2018). DOI: 10.1111/cogs.12628
Journal information: Cognitive Science

Citation: Baby talk words build infants' language skills, study shows (2018, August 1) retrieved 20 May 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-08-baby-words-infants-language-skills.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
32 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

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