‘Baby talk’ vi­tal part of evo­lu­tion, says re­search

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

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”.

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