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According to a new study, “baby talk” helps infants learn to speak.

Recent research suggests that when parents engage in ‘baby talk’ with their , they may be assisting them in learning to produce speech.

The findings of the have been published in the ‘Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research’ journal.

It is likely that the way we instinctively speak to babies — with a pitch, slower speech rate, and exaggerated pronunciation — not only appeals to them, but also them learn what we are talking about. According to new research from the University of Florida, baby talk may have an additional, previously unknown benefit: it may babies in their learning to produce their own speech, which was previously unknown. The researchers believe that by simulating the sound of a smaller vocal tract, we can teach babies how words should sound when they speak for the first time.

According to Dr. Matthew Masapollo, an assistant professor in the of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at the University of Florida, as well as the director of the UF Laboratory for the Study of Cognition, Action, and Perception of Speech in the College of and Health Professions, “it appears to stimulate motor production of speech, rather than just the perception of speech.”

“It’s not just goo-goo ga-ga,” he went on to explain.

When it came time to the infants’ reactions, the researchers changed the frequency sounds to mimic either an infant or an adult vocal tract, depending on which they were testing with. According to the researchers, babies between the ages of six and eight months “exhibited a robust and distinct preference for speech with resonances specifying a vocal tract that is similar in size and length to their own.”

Four- to six-month-old babies, on the other hand, did not such a preference, suggesting that older babies’ ability to control their voices and form words out of babble may have contributed to their preference for infant-like sounds.

“Despite the fact that baby talk appears to be simple, it accomplishes a great deal,” says co-author Linda Polka, PhD, of McGill University.

“We’re attempting to engage the infant in order to demonstrate something about speech production,” she explained.

Then she explained, “We’re priming them to process their own voice.”

While parents are sometimes discouraged from engaging in baby talk, Masapollo and Polka’s research revealed that the patterns associated with that speaking style — which dubbed “infant-directed speech” — could be a critical component in helping babies learn to communicate verbally in the future.

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