Baby talk might sound silly to outsiders, but it’s actually a great way to build your little one’s language skills, according to a new study.
Children who heard words such as “bunny” or “choo-choo” more frequently were faster at picking up new words between the ages of nine and 21 months than kids who did not, researchers said.
The findings suggest some types of baby talk work better than others, for example, words that end in ‘y’ such as “tummy”, “mummy” and “doggy”, and words that repeat sounds like “choo-choo” and “night-night” work well.
For the study, linguists at the University of Edinburgh recorded samples of speech addressed to 47 infants learning English, specifically paying attention to baby talk words.
As well as analysing words ending in ‘y’ (known as diminutives) and words containing repeated syllables (known as reduplication), the researchers checked for onomatopoeic words that sound like their meaning, such as “splash” and “crash”.
They examined the rate of the infants’ language development by measuring the size of the children’s vocabulary at nine, 15 and 21 months.
Infants who heard a higher proportion of diminutive words (like doggy and kitty) and words with repeated syllables (choo-choo and woof-woof) developed their language more quickly than others. The effect was not the same 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 baby talk words - across many different languages - can facilitate the early stage of vocabulary development.”