Monday, August 20, 2012

Baby Talk & Pets

Andrew Sullivan shares some interesting research on why grown-ups tend to talk "baby talk" to our young children ... basically because it works:
So why do we do this? For one, infants like baby talk. Pretty much from the get-go they’ll listen to it longer than they’ll listen to speech directed toward adults. Baby talk is also a particularly efficient conduit of speakers’ emotions and intentions....

Finally, and slightly more controversially, baby talk may actually help infants learn their native language. In 2009, for instance, researcher Leher Singh, now at the National University of Singapore, collaborated with colleagues at Boston University and the University of Vermont on a study that exposed seven-and-a-half-month-old infants to two simple but as-yet-unlearned words (bike and hat) ... [T]hey only showed learning when bike and hat had been cooed to them in baby talk.

The article goes on to talk about "pet talk", which sounds very similar to "baby talk", but is actually different in some subtle, yet significant, ways.  The commonly accepted reason for this difference is that we, as humans, recognize at some level that while little Joey will eventually grow up to be big Joe and will speak in full sentences, Fido is never going to discuss last night's sports game. To a certain extent we even do this when speaking to people who can't speak our own language.  It's very fascinating.

The first paragraph, though, this is basically the reason that I do now, and will continue to, talk baby-talk to Lucy and other animals.  Because she can and does understand it.  Or at least as well as she is capable of understanding what I try to communicate to her.  If she were a developing child who, in just a few short years, would be expected to communicate on a much higher level, I might think differently.  But she's not.  Beyond a few key words that she's memorized, the English vocabulary will elude her.  But she understands emotion very well and knows how to react to it, so that's how I mostly communicate with her.

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