Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Infant Baby Talk: Is it an Effective Device?

Infant Baby Talk: Is it an Effective Device?

Melinda Pye

Communication is vital for survivorship and the creation of social networks. However, how do infants become socialized into his or her culture through language? This paper examines whether the use of baby talk amongst caregivers helps infants acquire language more easily as opposed to the use of adult speech and whether its use aids in their language development. In addition to examining if the use of baby talk varies cross-culturally or is used at all.

In this literature review the characteristics of baby talk were defined by the linguist Charles A. Ferguson and its use as an interactional method was described by Naomi S. Baron. In addition, the research of June Hampson, Katherine Nelson, Robin Copper, Richard Aslin, and others were used to determine the impacts of the use of baby talk on infants. The literature reviewed indicated that they stylistic preference in language acquisition and vocabulary range of the infant can be attributed to the mean length utterance of the mother. In addition, infants show a preference for infant-direct speech over adult directed speech. Cross-culturally, among the Yakima Indians baby talk is not used and is viewed negatively and a preference is shown for adult-direct speech. Among the Comanche an age stipulation is placed on the duration that baby talk is used.

In conclusion, this research is significant because some caregivers desire to socialize their child in the most effective manner. In retrospect, it is interesting to cross-culturally compare the values that each culture places on language in terms infant socialization. In addition, the use of baby talk may be viewed as an effective device in one cultural system, but ineffective in another system. Overall, it is up to the caregiver to use their discretion to select the most appropriate and effective language device that fits into the rules and customs of their culture.

Future research should include more topics on the modifications in paternal speech when baby talk is used. In addition to research on reasons why some cultures use age as a maker to discontinue the use of baby talk and why they condemn the use of such language.

April 23, 2010 - Posted by | abstract

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