To talk to their babies, new mothers unconsciously change the tone of their voice so that their babies can learn to recognize their mothers from birth, according to the recent study published in the Current Biology journal.
All mothers use a universal ‘motherese’ or ‘baby talk’ when they talk to infant regardless of the language they spoke. Mother talk is somewhat is an exaggerated and musical form of speech.
Many people do not believe this theory, but in reality, it plays an important role in language learning, engaging infants’ emotions and highlighting the structure of language to help babies decode the puzzle of syllables and sentences.
In the study, researchers explained that mothers changed the tone of her voice so her newborn can recognize easily and pay attention to her from birth.
The team recorded the mothers when they played with their seven- to 12-month-old newborns and when they spoke to another adult. The findings indicated that the differences in timbre were strong enough to be reliably picked out by a machine learning algorithm.
The authors explained that the shifts suggested there was a universal form of communication with newborns. Researcher Elise Piazza said her team had discovered ‘a new cue that mothers implicitly use to support babies’ language learning’.
The timbre shift was consistent across women who spoke 10 languages: English, Cantonese, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Mandarin, Polish, Russian and Spanish.
Piazza said: ‘We found that mothers alter this basic quality of their voices when speaking to infants, and they do so in a highly consistent way across many diverse languages.’