If you or your partner ever feel ridiculous talking in a silly high-pitched voice to your baby, there's good news for you. It turns out that your silly baby talk—or "motherese"—may actually be helping your child learn.
While there are tons of baby books out there telling parents to talk to their infants as if they're just other adults, new research out of Rutgers University would suggest otherwise.
According to Patrick Shafto, an associate professor of mathematics and computer science who conducted the research, grown-ups natural instincts to talk to babies in a silly, sing-songy voice is spot on. "Why do we speak funny to children? It’s actually to help them learn the relevant properties of language."
In order to reach their conclusion, Shafto and his team of researchers created a mathematical model that took deconstructed vowel sounds and predicted what language might look like "if speech were designed to actually teach children." They then compared their findings with the various ways that adults generally talk to babies and found that the closest match was the motherese.
“The sounds that are selected exaggerate the important properties that babies need to attend to and learn about. If you exaggerate in the correct way, what you get is a learner who learns more quickly from less data,” says Shafto. So eventually the infant's brain is able to process the baby talk into regular language.
So next time Grandma is talking to Baby in some bizarre crazy-sounding voice, don't fret—just think of it as an early education.