Latest Issue of Science News


News

Baby talk goes to the dogs, and cats

By
2:44pm, May 28, 2002

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.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.

More from Science News