SOURCE: McGill University, news release, May 12, 2015
FRIDAY, May 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Babies would rather listen to other babies than adults, and this preference may help in their language development, a new study suggests.
This finding might help explain why many adults seem to instinctively choose to use "baby-talk" with infants, according to one of the study's authors.
"Perhaps, when we use a high, infant-like voice pitch to speak to our babies, we are actually preparing them to perceive their own voice," study senior author Linda Polka, a professor in the school of communication disorders at McGill University in Montreal, said in a university news release.
The Canadian researchers conducted a series of experiments with 6-month-old babies and found that they listened to infant-like vowel sounds an average of 40 percent longer than vowel sounds made by an adult woman.
This was not due to a preference for a familiar sound. The infants in the study were not yet babbling, so the infant-like vowel sounds were not yet among the things they heard every day, the study authors said in the journal Developmental Science.
An attraction to infant speech sounds may help trigger and support the processes involved in learning how to talk, the researchers said. They added that the findings could lead to new ways to help infants with hearing impairment and other problems that hinder language skills development.
"As adults, we use language to communicate. But when a young infant starts to make speech sounds, it often has more to do with exploring than with communicating... In fact, babies typically vocalize when they are alone, without any interaction or eye contact with others," Polka said.
"That's because to learn how to speak, babies need to spend lots of time moving their mouths and vocal cords to understand the kind of sounds they can make themselves. They need, quite literally, to 'find their own voice,' " she explained.
The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about speech and language development.