I speak differently to my baby than to other adults. Is it actually helping them learn?

Parentese is more than baby talk.

Named after parents around the world, parentese is a style of speaking that features a higher pitch and drawn-out vowels.

A mother holds her child up.

Believe it or not, parentese is not baby-talk. Baby-talk is when a parent babbles to their infant. They might say things like “babababa” or mispronounce words and say things like “widdle” and “dat.”

In contrast, parentese usually uses full sentences. It also uses prosody (pitch and rhythm) to hold the child’s attention and to emphasize word boundaries and vowel shapes. Speaking to infants this way encourages them to respond and helps them learn their language (link).

While not every parent uses parentese with their baby, parents from many different cultures and languages change their speech in similar ways, supporting the idea that it helps children learn and understand.

Aahnix poses for a picture on a chair, facing the sunset.

Aahnix Bathurst


Aahnix is a Project Coordinator in the Bergelson lab at Duke University

Elika Bergelson

Principal Investigator