There's a Reason Babies Respond To High-Pitched Baby Talk
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Ever noticed how your voice shoots up a couple of octaves when you see a baby? For most of us, this change in tone is seemingly involuntary. While research varies on whether or not using a baby voice when speaking to your baby is beneficial, they do agree that babies prefer to listen to these high-pitched tones. Let the peekaboos commence!In a 2015 study by McGill University, Canadian researchers discovered that 6-month-old infants were much more attracted to their own speech patterns than those of adults. The infants listened to "a repeating vowel sound that mimicked those made by an adult woman or those by a baby" using a synthesis tool. Researchers measured the length of each infant's attention span. On average, the infants listened to a fellow baby's vowels 40 percent longer than the adult woman's vowels. It's important to note that the "infant-like vowel sounds that they heard were not yet part of their everyday listening experience." Meaning, the babies weren't partial to their own kind simply out of familiarity. Knowing infants' speech preferences can help us design more effective tools in developing their speech.
How Did Parents Flaunt Their Kids Before Facebook? Baby Shows.
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Regardless of how you feel about the Facebook friends who fill your newsfeed with photos of their babies, one thing is for certain: parents always want to show off their offspring. Always have, always will. No, really: before the advent of social media, parents took part in baby shows. The first baby show occurred at an Ohio county fair in 1854 with 127 infants competing for prizes—way before "Toddlers and Tiaras."According to a 2008 paper by Northwestern University professor Susan Pearson, these shows became commonplace in the 18th century at "agricultural and mechanics' fairs, urban theaters, exhibition halls, and fundraising events." Atlantic City hosted an annual baby show on its boardwalk, and the trend eventually made its way overseas to a few European cities. However, most of the world considered these shows as "a distinctly American, if slightly vulgar, novelty."
Newborns Cry With Their Mothers' Accent
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We know that from the day they're born, babies are taking in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of the world around them in preparation for the milestones ahead. Recent research now suggests that preparation might be happening even before birth. To determine whether babies cry differently depending on the language their mother speaks, Kathleen Wermke and her team at the University of Würzberg in Germany performed two studies that used acoustical analysis to delve into the tonal differences of newborn cries. The first study, published in The Journal of Voice, compared more than 6,000 cries from 102 babies in their first week of life, some with Mandarin-speaking Chinese mothers and some with German mothers. The second smaller study, published in Speech, Language and Hearing, examined the cries of 21 German infants with German-speaking mothers and 21 Cameroonian Nso infants with Lamnso-speaking mothers, also in their first week of life. The analysis showed that the newborns whose mothers spoke Mandarin and Lamnso cried more melodically, with higher high tones, lower low tones, and more rapid pitch changes overall, than the babies whose mothers spoke German. Because Mandarin and Lamnso are both tonal languages that instill meaning in the pitch of a syllable—that is, one word can have multiple meanings depending on the tone that's used—this variation in the babies' cries suggests that newborns are already learning the nuances of their mothers' speech before they're even born. Discover more about the ways babies learn language with the videos below.