‘Baby talk’ vital part of evolution, says research
SYDNEY, Australia — Researchers have unlocked the reason why adults use “baby talk”, when addressing infants, according to a new study published on Wednesday.
Western Sydney University revealed that mothers unconsciously raise the pitch of their voices as an evolutionary trait in order to comfort their babies and make themselves appear friendlier.
It also helps babies learn language, as the sounds are clearer and easier to disseminate.
“What we found in this study was that mothers weren’t actually making more exaggerated movements with their tongue to make the sound clearer,” lead author doctor Marina Kalashnikova said on Wednesday.
“They were shortening the side of the vocal track and that was leading to a higher pitch
in their voice and also clearer speech sounds.”
The process recorded the sound characteristics of mothers’ speech when talking to their babies and examined their lips and tongues with equipment called electromagnetic articulography, which is used in the film industry to create digital effects.
Data from the study was then measured against other research which has addressed similar behavior across different species.
Animals also modify how they sound in order to comfort their offspring, the study found.
“For example, when a large animal approaches their off- spring, they can produce a higher-pitched vocalization to sound smaller and less threatening,” Kalashnikova said.
“But a smaller animal will produce a lower pitch of vocalization to sound bigger and scarier, so their young feel safe.”
The evolutionary characteristic also appears to be universal across human languages.
According to Kalashnikova, similar research has concluded that Russian and Swedish languages also use baby talk and in the Asian community, “when mothers speak in Mandarin, they exaggerate the tone as well as their vowels”.