The strange little voices in which we speak to children: that’s why

No one has ever wondered why we spend strange little voices when we turn to children? A study of 40 scientists of different nationalities finally explains why. The prestigious research group is led by Courtney B. Hilton from Harvard University in Cambridge (USA). In collaboration with Cody J. Moser and the University of California in Merced (USA). The results come from more than 1,600 voice recordings from 21 different companies on six continents.

Data analysis and theories

The authors of the research started with a specific question. Do individuals from different cultures and languages ​​also use modulations with strange little voices to talk to children? Usually, when we talk to a child, our tone of voice becomes almost that emitted if we suck helium from a balloon. Here is that the study has motivated the reason for such behavior. Doing so favors you language learning on the part of the child, which lowers his mood and mood. This also happens in different cultures? To find out the answer, 410 participants were analyzed. They were asked to give a speech to a “sulky” child and then to an adult. Then imagine singing a song first to the child and then to the adult. In the end, 1,615 recordings came out, which were then scanned with the computer to study 15 different types of acoustic peculiarities: tone, timbre and rhythm.

The results of the experiment

The result of the test was that the acoustic characteristics of speech and songs to children have similar elements. All this by comparing the participants’ 21 different cultures. Speech to a child is more acute and with a wider diversification of intonations. They resemble those of various endangered animal species. Researchers therefore believe that there are connections with bioacousticsa science that looks at the use of different forms of animal communication in specific contexts.

The study involved groups of random people asking them to identify the sounds they gave them to listen to. It’s about naive listeners (conscious listeners) selected from among participants living in different countries of the world. They were able to recognize speech to a child from that addressed to an adult, even if it was only by tone of vote. Singing is much more connected than talking in communication with children.

The limits of the study

The study has its limitations, because although the experiment involves a large and varied number of participants, it does not represent all of humanity. Voice recordings were requested by researchers and thus influenced. A way to have standard admissions and obtain homogeneous samples with systematic examination results.

The opinions of the scholars

The team, led by Courtney Hilton, wrote:

We aimed to maximize linguistic, cultural, geographical and technological diversity. The recordings document vocalizations in 18 languages ​​of 12 language families and represent companies located on six continents, with varying degrees of isolation from global media, including four small companies that do not have access to television, radio or the Internet and therefore have a ‘very limited exposure to other companies’ language and music. The findings contribute to our understanding of human language and song and suggest that we modify our vocalizations to children in a way that is consistent across cultures and broadly recognizable, and may have a common function.

Baby talk

We emphasize the concept baby talk: it is nothing but a figure of speech made by adults while talking to a child. Harvard University reveals that baby talk is universal because all people make their voices strange when they speak loud noises. Baby talk is characterized by an increasingly higher pitch with a slower voice frequency and a song-like cadence. So does baby talk facial expression exaggerated: raised eyebrows, lots of smiles and a more open mouth.

Baby babble

There is a debate about the importance of speaking in small, strange voices to children. There are those who say that a speech made slowly with a singing voice and strange words is usual with children. Earlier they said it was harmful. Other research, on the other hand, says it’s important to do so. Baby talk is considered by many to be a valid help for the first language skills related to writing And reading. Children understand the general meaning of an adult’s words even before they can speak clearly.

Finally, here are the tips for communicating with children.

  • back and forth conversations in baby talk
  • imitation of the child’s vocalizations (ba-ba or goo-goo)
  • strengthen communication with smiles and facial expressions
  • repetition of the child’s gestures
  • observe the child making sounds


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