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Baby talk goes to the dogs, and cats

Some people utter a singsong baby talk to their beloved pets, as well as to their own or others' babies. However, pet- and infant-directed baby talk appear to be different acoustic animals, so to speak.

Mothers talking to their babies speak in a distinctive high pitch, exaggerate the emotional quality of their voices, and draw out the pronunciation of vowels. Dog and cat owners also use a high pitch and amplify emotional intonations when talking to their pets, but they don't stretch out vowel sounds, according to a report in the May 24 Science.

This finding adds weight to the theory that people, and mothers in particular, intuitively use a type of baby talk with infants that imparts lessons in how to speak or at least understand a native language, propose psychologist Denis Burnham of the University of Western Sydney in Australia and his colleagues.

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