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20th May 2015

Study shows Dads talk to babies like adults while mums use baby talk

Sophie White

Do you babble and talk in virtually incomprehensible rhyming couplets to your baby? I do. Hell, yes I do. It’s fun and for no discernible reason it is exactly what came out of my mouth the first time I met my son.

It was post-op. The Man said, “here’s the baby” and kind of held him out, and I said; “awh look at the beautiful little thing, he looks like a slimy, wimey ickle wickle lizard”. It may have been the morphine, but I prefer to think that I was already fluent in what we call round our house “baby latin”. It’s like pig latin only smarter and babies understand it. Baby talk.

On the other hand, The Man talks to the baby using adult language, in frustrated tones like he can’t believe the baby’s not getting what he’s saying. I try telling him that the Baby doesn’t speak English yet to no avail. Turns out that according to a new study by Professor Mark VanDam of Washington State University that was presented to the Acoustical Society of America, The Man and I are conforming to trends among most parents. VanDam’s study found that mothers tend to use more baby talk while fathers are more likely to address the babies like small, unwieldy little colleagues.

Previous studies have shown that baby talk helps baby’s acquire language skills more quickly. Researchers found that the characteristics of baby talk – higher pitch and exaggerated vowels – help babies to learn new words faster.
VanDam’s study now shows that while baby talk is important, the more adult style that dads adopt when communicating with their kids plays an equally important role in the child’s development.

“The basic idea is that mums provide the link to the domestic, more intimate type of talk while dads provide the link to the outside world,” said VanDam.

“In that sense, mums and dads provide different kinds of experiences that give kids more comprehensive exposure to what kinds of language they need in the real world.”