We know that babies and toddlers acquire language as they interact with the people around them and as their parents talk to them but that doesn’t mean that they only receive information from their environment. That is, they can actually influence their learning environment through babbling.
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New research from Cornell’s Behavioral Analysis of Beginning Years (B.A.B.Y.) Laboratory reveals that baby babbling elicits profound changes in adult speech. Adults unconsciously modify their speech to include fewer unique words, shorter sentences and more one-word replies. This simplified speech happens only in response to the baby’s babbling, and not when the adult is simply talking to the baby.
“Infants are actually shaping their own learning environments in ways that make learning easier to do,” said lead author Steven Elmlinger, a doctoral candidate in the field of psychology. “We know that parents’ speech influences how infants learn – that makes sense – and that infants’ own motivations also change how they learn. But what hasn’t been studied is the link between how infants can change the parents, or just change the learning environment as a whole. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Baby talk isn’t just cute but it also affects how we speak to babies which, in turn, could help them learn the language a lot easier. The researchers conducted the study with mothers and infants then measured the vocabulary used by the parents and the words or vocalizations made by the infants to come up with these findings.
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