Baby talk is a form of verbal expression in which a person who is not a baby communicates or talks to a baby in a way that is meant to be comforting or soothing. The tone of voice used in this type of communication is often slightly higher than in normal speech, and vowel sounds can be somewhat drawn out to create sounds often described as “cooing.” Baby talk is frequently used by parents or caregivers to reflect the sounds produced by babies or infants back to them, and to talk to babies in a way that soothes them and is song-like.
Sometimes also referred to as “motherese,” baby talk is often considered an important part of communication and relationships between babies and caregivers such as parents. While the use of baby talk may seem somewhat immature, the tone of voice used is often quite effective for getting the attention and focus of a baby. Focused attention that occurs between a baby and caregiver during this process can be important for establishing the relationship between parents and a baby. The nurturing tones of such communication and the act of reflecting sounds back toward the infant can further reinforce this connection.
Baby talk can also be an important component in language development for many children. While the exact nature and effectiveness of this kind of communication in language development has been debated, some research indicates that infant language development is assisted by such talking. At the very least, it is likely that baby talk helps infants understand how language is used to communicate between two people, as a baby often “talks” to a caregiver and the caregiver responds. This teaches the infant that verbal communication consists of a process through which one party talks while the other listens, and then each party trades roles.
There are also some settings in which baby talk can be used without a baby or infant being present. Two adults may use tones of voice and “immature” language when communicating with each other to express attraction toward each other. This is likely a subconscious manner in which each person expresses trust and a feeling of nurturing toward the other through the use of such verbal cues. Baby talk can also be used by an adult toward an animal, especially a pet, to help soothe the animal or express a similar sense of “comforting” toward the animal. It can also be used mockingly or derisively by one person toward another, usually to express that the recipient is acting childishly.