The more “baby talk words” that infants are exposed to, the quicker they grasp language, a study has suggested.
Assessments of nine-month-old children found that those who often hear diminutive words ending in ‘y’ – such as tummy, mummy and doggy – or words that repeat sounds – such as choo-choo and night-night – have a bigger vocabulary by the time they are 21-months-old.
Linguists at the University of Edinburgh recorded samples of speech addressed to 47 infants.
They checked the speech for baby talk words and onomatopoeic words that sound like their meaning, such as woof and splash.
The children’s vocabulary was then measured at nine, 15 and 21 months.
The team found that infants who heard a higher proportion of diminutive words and repeated words developed their language more quickly between nine and 21 months.
Lead researcher Mitsuhiko Ota, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said: “Our findings suggest that diminutives and reduplication, which are frequently found in baby talk words – across many different languages – can facilitate the early stage of vocabulary development.”
The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is published in Cognitive Science.