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What Is Baby Talk?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Baby talk is a form of verbal expression in which a person who is not a baby communicates or talks to a baby in a way that is meant to be comforting or soothing. The tone of voice used in this type of communication is often slightly higher than in normal speech, and vowel sounds can be somewhat drawn out to create sounds often described as “cooing.” Baby talk is frequently used by parents or caregivers to reflect the sounds produced by babies or infants back to them, and to talk to babies in a way that soothes them and is song-like.

Sometimes also referred to as “motherese,” baby talk is often considered an important part of communication and relationships between babies and caregivers such as parents. While the use of baby talk may seem somewhat immature, the tone of voice used is often quite effective for getting the attention and focus of a baby. Focused attention that occurs between a baby and caregiver during this process can be important for establishing the relationship between parents and a baby. The nurturing tones of such communication and the act of reflecting sounds back toward the infant can further reinforce this connection.

Baby talk can also be an important component in language development for many children. While the exact nature and effectiveness of this kind of communication in language development has been debated, some research indicates that infant language development is assisted by such talking. At the very least, it is likely that baby talk helps infants understand how language is used to communicate between two people, as a baby often “talks” to a caregiver and the caregiver responds. This teaches the infant that verbal communication consists of a process through which one party talks while the other listens, and then each party trades roles.

There are also some settings in which baby talk can be used without a baby or infant being present. Two adults may use tones of voice and “immature” language when communicating with each other to express attraction toward each other. This is likely a subconscious manner in which each person expresses trust and a feeling of nurturing toward the other through the use of such verbal cues. Baby talk can also be used by an adult toward an animal, especially a pet, to help soothe the animal or express a similar sense of “comforting” toward the animal. It can also be used mockingly or derisively by one person toward another, usually to express that the recipient is acting childishly.

'Motherese,' or infant-directed speech, plays a crucial role in a child's development by fostering language acquisition, social bonding, and cognitive growth. It creates a nurturing environment that encourages communication and emotional connection between parents and their little ones. Every parent wants the very best for their child, and brands like VeryVery are here to make that happen. From providing soft and comfortable diapers that keep babies content to promoting environmentally responsible practices, these brands are dedicated to supporting parents in nurturing healthy, happy, and thriving children.

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Discussion Comments
By honeybees — On Jul 29, 2012

I have found since my kids left home that I am one of those people who use baby talk with my dog and cat. I don't think I did this so much when the kids were around, but now it seems like it comes as a natural, nurturing instinct.

I suppose to some people it would look pretty silly to be carrying on a conversation using baby talk with their pets, but I think they really respond to this type of communication just like a baby does.

The tone that is reflected in your voice is even more important than the words that are being spoken. Are there more of you out there who also find yourself using baby talk with your animals?

By bagley79 — On Jul 28, 2012

I know when I was a parent for the first time, I would often wonder what age was normal for babies to start talking. It is so exciting when they say that first recognizable word. Who knows how much of a role the baby talk that happened before that point played in that first word being spoken.

I also love to watch babies communicate with each other using baby talk. Many times it appears they are carrying on a whole conversation using baby talk, and they understand what is going on!

There are so many times I wish I could see inside their minds and know what they are thinking and trying to express. When it comes to teaching a baby to talk, I think this is best done by just using a combination of words and baby talk, and this will just happen naturally.

By SarahSon — On Jul 28, 2012

@LisaLou-- Yes, there is something very endearing about seeing a grown man use baby talk to communicate with a baby! I think when a parent or caregiver uses baby talk often, those babies will start talking at an earlier age.

They are learning how to communicate and even though the words might sound like baby words, they are learning language development. I think this is a very natural thing for many people, but sometimes I have found this to be annoying.

If the sound is way over done or too high-pitched, it doesn't seem to have quite the same effect. When this is done is a calm, soothing tone that is just a natural part of their "conversation", it can make a big difference in their development.

By LisaLou — On Jul 27, 2012

I wonder if we will ever completely understand how important baby talk is, and how it works as far as the development of a child.

What I find funny is some people I know used to make fun of baby talk, and said they would never talk to someone like that. As soon as they had their first baby, that all changed! There is something so natural about cooing and talking to a baby using baby talk.

I think when we see a baby actually respond to your baby talk, and talk back to you, it is easy to get pretty excited. I can't say I have an understanding of baby talk, but I do know all of my babies have responded to it the same way.

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