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Parentese: Why It’s Never Too Early to Start a Conversation (0-6 Months)

Researchers call the special way we talk to babies “motherese” or “parentese.” This sing-song speech, often accompanied by exaggerated facial expressions, seems to be used by nearly everyone who talks to a baby. We all love to do it–mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, and even preschoolers addressing younger brothers and sisters. And what’s more, babies seem to like it too.


Keep Talking


Fernald, A. (1985). Four-month-old infants prefer to listen to motherese. Infant Behavior & Development, 8, 181-195.

Gopnik, A., Meltzoff, A. N., & Kuhl, P. K. (1999). The scientist in the crib: Minds, brains, and how children learn. New York: William Morrow.

Grieser, D. L., & Kuhl, P. K. (1988). Maternal speech to infants in a tonal language: Support for universal prosodic features in motherese. Developmental Psychology, 24(1), 14-20.

Kuhl, P. K., Andruski, J. E., Chistovich, I. A., Chistovich, L. A., Kozhevnikova, E. V., Ryskina, V. L., et al. (1997). Cross-language analysis of phonetic units in language addressed to infants. Science, 277, 684-686.

Kuhl, P. K., & Meltzoff, A. N. (1982). The bimodal perception of speech in infancy. Science, 218, 1138-1141.

Snow, C. E. (1977). The development of conversation between mothers and babies. Journal of Child Language, 4, 1-22.

Thiessen, E. D., Hill, E. A., & Saffran, J. R. (2005). Infant-directed speech facilitates word segmentation. Infancy, 7(1), 53-71.