Baby Talk: What You Need to Know

Parents tend to adjust their use of language when talking to infants. This phenomenon is known as baby talk. Read this article to learn more.
Baby Talk: What You Need to Know

Last update: 31 July, 2019

You’ve probably noticed how adults talk to babies and young children. They change their intonation and expressiveness, a phenomenon known as baby talk.

It’s important to keep in mind that language is a skill children develop gradually over several years. In this respect, the way parents express themselves with their children is an important factor in the acquisition and learning of speech. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at baby talk.

“Learning is like a tower, you have to build it step by step.”

– Lev Vygotsky

Characteristics of baby talk

Baby talk refers to how adults – and even children over six – adapt their language when communicating with young children. This way of expressing oneself is characterized by the modulation of three basic aspects of spoken language:

  • Duration
  • Intensity
  • Frequency
Baby Talk: What You Need to Know

According to speech therapist Marc Monfort, the essential characteristics of baby talk are as follows:

  • Slow pace.
  • High-pitched voice.
  • Well-defined pronunciation.
  • Expressive intonation.
  • Short and simple sentences.
  • Redundancy, often repeating part or all of the statements.
  • Limited number of words, generally choosing the simplest formula and using diminutives.
  • Continuous references to the context.
  • Nonverbal language, with gestures and miming accompanying spoken language.

“Adults must adapt to children, not the other way around. Make communication with them easy and simple. Make sure they understand you.”

What are the purposes of baby talk?

The use of baby talk serves to adapt language to the particularities and evolutionary pace of the little ones. As such, they receive abundant, appropriate and varied language models.

The adaptations serve the purpose of creating effective and communicative understanding on the part of the child. Therefore, they seek to provide basic assistance for the imitation and learning of spoken language.

As mentioned earlier, children are usually spoken to simply and slowly, with special care paid to pronunciation and vocabulary. As a result, this allows the child to pay more attention and facilitates the beginning and continuation of long and interesting conversations.

Other guidelines for talking with children

Parents should pay special attention to the way they communicate with children. Talking to them is highly beneficial and enriching, especially during the early stages of development.

In addition to baby talk, there are plenty of other strategies to apply in order to talk to children with maximum effectiveness.

Baby Talk: What You Need to Know

In particular, some of these guidelines for stimulating language in babies and young children include:

  • Bend down to the child’s height and establish eye contact.
  • Incorporate moments of play in which the child’s capacity for spoken language and listening are engaged.
  • Learn and recite children’s songs.
  • Involve the child in everyday activities, such as going to the supermarket.
  • Listen actively, repeating and reformulating what the child has tried to say.
  • Use positive reinforcement.

Baby talk: conclusion

Spoken language is a natural skill acquired through a series of communicative exchanges with their environment from birth onward. In particular, children learn to talk by listening to their relatives, especially their parents.

Ultimately, this is why using baby talk and other forms of positive communication patterns with young children is so important.

“A child’s level of verbal comprehension and expression is a determining factor in his or her personal development, social integration and, of course, academic success.”

– Marc Monfort

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Díez-Itza, E. (1993). Variaciones tonales en el habla a los niños y adquisición del lenguaje. Estudios de Psicología14(50), 33-47.
  • García, M. M. R. (1993). La influencia del habla de estilo materno en la adquisición del lenguaje: valor y límites de la hipótesis del input. Anuario de psicología/The UB Journal of psychology, 45-64.
  • Monfort, M. (2001). El niño que habla. Madrid: Cepe.
  • Serena, F. J. C. (2001) El balbuceo. Disponible en este enlace.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.