Exposing infants to more “baby talk” could help them grasp language faster, according to researchers.
Linguists at the University of Edinburgh found that youngsters who frequently heard diminutive words ending in “y” – like mummy, tummy and doggy – had a larger vocabulary by the time they were 21-months-old.
The same went for words that repeated sounds – such as choo-choo and night-night – and onomatopoeic words that sound like their meaning – like woof and splash.
The experts at the university’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences came to their conclusion after recording samples of speech addressed to 47 children.
The infants’ vocabulary was then analysed at the nine, 15 and 21-month marks.
Children who heard a higher proportion of diminutive words and repeated words developed their vocabulary at a faster rate from the beginning to the end of the experiment.
Lead researcher Mitsuhiko Ota said: “Our findings suggest that diminutives and reduplication, which are frequently found in baby talk words – across many different languages – can facilitate the early stage of vocabulary development.”
The findings of the study, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, have been published in the Cognitive Science journal.