Understanding baby talk: A guide

Ever wondered why babies make the same sounds? No matter which country they are from. It could be that babies have their own universal language that adults don’t really understand. Research has shown that baby talk is much more complex than we assume. Most parents do realize that their babies are trying to communicate something by making sounds. But it takes them at least six months to learn their baby’s cues. Even then, much of the baby language remains a mystery.

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Language starts in the womb

Recent research done at the  Pacific Lutheran University showed that babies learn language in utero. The tested newborns responded to words they previously heard while in the womb. Babies develop their hearing before being born. So hearing their mother’s voice helps them develop language before birth. They are particularly sensitive to vowels, which they are able to distinguish first among other sounds. And the last ten weeks of pregnancy are key for learning language.

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Baby talk is universal?

Understanding baby talk would make life so much easier for parents. The needs of a small baby are hard to figure out. But some believe that they do more than just cry. They have a language of their own and if parents pay attention they can start to understand it. At least partially.

The therapist Mary Cay Cavanaugh has figured out what babies are trying to communicate through baby talk. She says that before the age of three months, babies have five universal sounds through which they communicate. She teaches a system called Dunston Baby Language that guides parents to better understand their babies’ language. The five sounds she identified as being universal to all babies are:

Neh= “I’m hungry”
Owh= “I’m sleepy”
Heh= “I’m experiencing discomfort”
Eair= “I have lower gas/ I need to poop”
Eh= “I need to burp”

She proved her theory is correct on the Oprah show. She was able to determine what each baby says and to satisfy their needs. She also said that these sounds are actually reflexes that all babies have. Parents have to be aware of them just before the baby starts to cry. Otherwise, once a baby starts crying, it’s harder to understand what they need.

Watch Pricilla Dunstan tests her baby language

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Adults also understand baby talk?

A study by researchers Greg Bryant and Clark Barrett suggests that baby language could be universal not just for babies, but for adults also. They tested adults from Ecuador by playing recorded baby language spoke by English speaking mothers. They were able to correctly recognize the tone of the baby language 75% of the time. While adult talk was much harder to grasp.

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