BABIES’ BABBLING INFLUENCES HOW PARENTS TALK TO THEM 

When babies babble parents listen, even though they mostly have no idea what their little ones are saying to them. But now researchers have found that babies aren't just jabbering nonsense: when they babble they are actually influencing the way their parents talk to them. And they do this to maximize their learning. 

BABIES’ BABBLING INFLUENCES HOW PARENTS TALK TO THEM

In the study, researchers from Cornell University's Behavioral Analysis of Beginning Years (B.A.B.Y) Laboratory found that adults unconsciously modify their speech to include fewer unique words, shorter sentences, and more one-word replies when they are responding to a baby's babbling.

“Infants are actually shaping their own learning environments in ways that make learning easier to do,” study co-author Steven Elmlinger said in a statement. “We know that parents' speech influences how infants learn -- that makes sense -- and that infants' own motivations also change how they learn. But what hasn't been studied is the link between how infants can change the parents, or just change the learning environment as a whole. That's what we're trying to do."

In the study, 30 mother-infant pairs went to the lab's play space for 30-minute sessions on two consecutive days. The 9- and 10-month-old babies could roam freely around the environment, which was filled with toys, a toy box and animal posters. The babies wore overalls with hidden wireless microphones to record their speech, and were also videotaped by three remote-controlled digital video cameras.

BABIES’ BABBLING INFLUENCES HOW PARENTS TALK TO THEM

Researchers measured parents' vocabulary and syntax, and calculated the change in babies' vocal maturity from the first to the second day. They found that babies whose mothers provided more learning opportunities -- by using simplified speech with fewer unique words and shorter utterances -- were faster learners of new speech sounds on the second day.

"It's not meaningless," Elmlinger said. "Babbling is a social catalyst for babies to get information from the adults around them."

Aren’t babies just amazing? 

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