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Babytalk essential

Some parents may think it is undignified, but babytalk is essential for development of infant's brain.

health and fitness Updated: Feb 09, 2004 20:43 IST

Some parents may think it is undignified or detrimental, but babytalk is essential for the full development of an infant's brain, says a new research.

Babytalk, the universal cooing that mothers and fathers do to get their babies' attention, is more important than we may have ever realized, says Dr. David Miall, a professor of English at the University of Alberta.

Babytalk helps infants to develop an understanding and an appreciation of the temporal arts, such as literature, music, and dance, and depriving babies of the alliteration, assonance and other poetic elements inherent in babytalk could hinder their ability to produce and appreciate these arts when they grow up, says Miall.

Miall and his research colleague, Dr Ellen Dissanayake, base their views according to studies they earlier did with a software program that Miall had developed to recognize patterns in poetry.

Miall found that babytalk follows the same patterns often found in poetry that adults read. "Babytalk is full of poetic features, such as metrics and phonetics. I was surprised by how systematic it is, and how it works to shape and direct attention," Miall said.

Miall noticed, for example, that the sounds a parent makes when the baby is focusing on the parent come from the high-front part of the mouth, which indicates intimacy.

Conversely, the sounds come from the low-back part of the mouth when the parent is trying to win the baby's attention.

"There is a lot of evidence to show that an infant's mind is enormously flexible and adaptive, and we feel that if a parent does not engage their baby with babytalk it would be a loss, both cognitively and emotionally, for the baby," Miall said.

First Published: Feb 09, 2004 20:43 IST