Musical Brains: Baby Talk

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Whether we’re aware of it or not, there’s a language that virtually every man, woman and child on earth knows. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. The language of baby talk is instantly recognizable to everyone because it’s a language of emotion.

“You say, ‘Hi! You’re such a cute baby! Ooh, you’re so nice! Should I change your diaper now?’ A parent might ask that over and over again, asking questions, say, to a four-month-old, who, of course, can’t answer them. And you get the idea that the purpose really isn’t to talk about things, but really to share feelings. So, it seems to be mediated just by having our feelings altered by an infant’s presence. It seems to alter how we communicate.”

Sandra Trehub is a psychologist at the University of Toronto. More than 25 years ago she began studying infant reactions to speech patterns.

“When adults tend to interact with infants vocally, they invariably find themselves raising their pitch level, and using quite an extensive dynamic range too, and speaking rhythmically, things that we otherwise don’t do. Those are really not patterns that are typical of our normal speech, but they’re something that’s rather different when we talk to infants, and it turns out that this is highly engaging to infants. Infants are quite attentive when people interact with them in that manner. Much more so than when they simply speak in an ordinary, adult manner.”

In future programs, we’ll learn how Sandra Trehub has been able to test infants listening and comprehension abilities.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Musical Brains: Baby Talk

According to a child psychologist at the University of Toronto, baby talk is truly a universal language.
Air Date:06/05/2001
Scientist:
Transcript:

music

Whether we're aware of it or not, there's a language that virtually every man, woman and child on earth knows. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. The language of baby talk is instantly recognizable to everyone because it's a language of emotion.

"You say, 'Hi! You're such a cute baby! Ooh, you're so nice! Should I change your diaper now?' A parent might ask that over and over again, asking questions, say, to a four-month-old, who, of course, can't answer them. And you get the idea that the purpose really isn't to talk about things, but really to share feelings. So, it seems to be mediated just by having our feelings altered by an infant's presence. It seems to alter how we communicate."

Sandra Trehub is a psychologist at the University of Toronto. More than 25 years ago she began studying infant reactions to speech patterns.

"When adults tend to interact with infants vocally, they invariably find themselves raising their pitch level, and using quite an extensive dynamic range too, and speaking rhythmically, things that we otherwise don't do. Those are really not patterns that are typical of our normal speech, but they're something that's rather different when we talk to infants, and it turns out that this is highly engaging to infants. Infants are quite attentive when people interact with them in that manner. Much more so than when they simply speak in an ordinary, adult manner."

In future programs, we'll learn how Sandra Trehub has been able to test infants listening and comprehension abilities.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music