Baby chat: What it sounds like around the world

(CNN) We all use baby talk when we babble with bundles of joy, but does how we talk to infants vary across cultures?

The answer seems to be it depends.

“Some cultures talk more or less to babies, some never,” said Mark VanDam, assistant professor of speech and hearing sciences in the Elson S. Floyd College of Drugs at Washington Express University.

“Overall, however, the impulse and act of infant-directed speech seems to be pretty human being, definitely not culturally defined,” he stated.

Here is a sampling of how moms and dads from all over the world use infant-directed speech or “baby talk,” and why.

How baby talk may be consistent

Mothers all over the world regularly alter their voices when speaking with their babies, no matter what vocabulary they speak, according to a study published in October found in the journal Current Biology

Parenting Without Borders considers how parenting trends and methods differ — or perhaps don’t — all over the world.

Researchers recorded and analyzed the voices of 24 mothers with a powerful machine-learning algorithm.

Half of the ladies were English speakers, and others spoke Spanish, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, German, French, Hebrew, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Despite their native languages, the analysis showed, each of the women regularly shifted their timbre — or the tone and sound of their voice — when getting together with their infants.

The researchers were stunned that this shift in sound was a consistent design across such a different selection of languages, said Elise Piazza, associate research scholar at Princeton University and lead writer of the analysis.

“After we manipulated for pitch, we even now found timbre differences between infant-directed speech and adult-directed speech,” Piazza said.

Though plenty of similarities have been seen in how mothers speak to babies, studies have also spotted some cultural differences among both moms and dads.

How baby talk might differ

A study published in February in the journal Kid Development found that dads in THE UNITED STATES tended to slow their speech when speaking with infants, whereas dads in the Pacific island country of Vanuatu did not. Rather, they tended to shift their pitch more.

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Researchers examined 30 interactions between the fathers and their infants, around 7.8 months old. More research is needed in a larger sample of fathers to determine that such differences do, indeed, can be found in how these dads baby talk.

“These are little samples,” said Greg Bryant, a good cognitive scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. He conducted the analysis with Tanya Broesch, assistant professor in the department of psychology at Simon Fraser University

“The bigger picture is that there are several ways that mothers and fathers can perform the same communicative impact,” he said. “What’s general is that parents quite often do change their voice when speaking to young children, but how they change specifically could change across cultures.”

As for moms, a study published this past year found in the journal PLOS One found a good tendency for Lebanese moms to use even more infant-directed speech than American moms.

The study involved 19 American and 19 Lebanese moms. The researchers recorded audio tracks of the American mothers getting together with their infants in a lab and the Lebanese moms getting together with their infants in the home.

The key difference between the groups was that Lebanese moms had an increased rate in utterances each and every minute of baby talk compared to the American moms, the researchers found.

Although different research groups have determined differences in baby talk across cultural contexts, this study was the first ever to report quantitatively on such language differences, the researchers wrote.

Still, the analysis had plenty of limitations. For instance, American moms were analyzed in a lab, but Lebanese moms were tested in the home, which could explain the differences.

Alternatively, it turns out that how babies react to their parents could change by culture.

How babies babble around the globe

“Babies will most likely babble with their indigenous sound-sequences,” VanDam said.

“For example, we don’t possess words found in English that commence with ‘tl,’ such as ‘tlick,’ and English-speaking babies don’t have a tendency to babble that method,” he said, however, many Spanish words commence with “tl.”

“We also see indication language babies babbling found in sign vocabulary, which is fairly strong evidence that it’s more of a human being trait than some language or traditions particular trait,” VanDam said.

Quite simply, as kids develop, their babbling starts to reflect the speech patterns of their indigenous language, Bryant said.

suggested that infants start understanding words around 6 months old. A study posted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in Novembersuggested that infants begin understanding words around 6 months old.

“So mothers and fathers exaggerate vowel categories, for example, so they’ll produce vowel sounds a bit more noticeable, and then that assists the infants acquire the vowel looks of their vocabulary,” he said.

“Some people also feel that exaggerated features found in infant-directed speech help kids figure out how to parse the syntax of spoken sentences, but that is a bit more controversial,” he said.

The changes we tend to make in our voices — such as exaggerated, repetitive and high-pitched baby talk — could actually be useful for babies’ learning, Piazza said.

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“Previous experiments have proven that infants segment phrases and learn the meaning of novel phrases better from infant-directed than adult-directed speech,” Piazza stated.

“It as well seems to greatly help parents capture babies’ focus and engage them emotionally,” she said. “Men and women are generally motivated to activate infants, plus they intuitively understand that babies respond well to the exaggerated patterns in baby talk. Infant-directed speech is merely one of these of tailoring your connection style to a particular audience, which we perform constantly.”

Why we employ baby talk

Some researchers argue that baby talk not only helps infants acquire vocabulary, it can help parents form a great emotional relationship with their babies, said Linda Polka, a professor in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at McGill University in Canada.

Other studies advise that infants prefer high-pitched infant-directed speech and sometimes infant-directed singing, Polka said.

The reason for this preference remains complex, but research shows that when adults shift the sound of their voices for “baby talk,” that triggers them to sound smaller — as if their voice is from the smaller vocal tract, Polka said.

“Our research demonstrates babies prefer to listen to speech from the smaller infant talker, but we have no idea exactly why babies express this preference. Carry out they simply have a general ‘smaller talkers will be better’ bias, or will be they especially sensitive to how big an infant is?” Polka said.

In the future, “we could figure this out by assessing how they react to speech sounds which come from a vocal tract that is too small to be an infant. Would they still enjoy it, or would that come to be significantly less interesting to them?” she said.

Also, Polka said that whether you are speaking with a baby or an adult, research suggests that there is a tendency to shift your speech to sound similar to the individual who you are getting together with.

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“You are more likely to do that once you have a great regard for the individual you’re getting together with,” Polka said.

“Adjusting our speech to sound smaller when we employ baby talk may be ways to convey have an impact on to the baby, by trying to sound like them,” she said. “Concurrently, additionally, it may help them regarding their very own learning, because we’re giving them a chance to pay attention to a voice that sounds similar to them. We might be kind of priming them for his or her own voice, which is pretty distinct from an adult voice.”

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