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Study: Baby talk helps children learn new words

A new study found baby talk helps children

A new study found baby talk helps children learn new words faster. (Credit: iStock)

High-pitched babble and cooing may help infants learn new words faster, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Washington and University of Connecticut examined thousands of 30-second snippets of verbal exchanges between parents and babies. According to a University of Washington news release, "they measured parents' use of a regular speaking voice versus an exaggerated, animated baby talk style." Researchers found that infants whose parents talked to them at a higher pitch and with elongated vowels had learned nearly three times more words by the time they turned two.

"The more parents exaggerated vowels (for example, 'How are youuuuu?') and raised the pitch of their voices, the more 1-year olds babbled, which is a forerunner of word production," according to the news release.

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A year later, parents filled out a questionnaire listing the number of words their children spoke. Infants who had heard more baby talk knew more words (433 words, on average, compared with the 169 words recognized by 2-year-olds in families that used less baby talk).

“It’s not just talk, talk, talk at the child,” said Patricia Kuhl, co-author and co-director of University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. "It’s more important to work toward interaction and engagement around language. You want to engage the infant and get the baby to babble back. The more you get that serve and volley going, the more language advances.”

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