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Baby talk

Alice in the maternity ward

In all countries, people talk differently to very young children compared to how they talk normally. This different style of talking is sometimes referred to as 'motherese' and 'baby talk'. Examples of baby talk include phrases like 'coochie coochie' and words like 'doggy'. There are different ways to change the everyday language into baby talk.

Adding y / ie to a word, or using an informal word ending in y

This is often seen to make a word more familiar, less formal. It is, of course, making the word easier to say, or at least, more memorable.

doggy - dog

mummy - mum

daddy - dad

auntie - aunt

yummy - delicious

tummy - stomach

Repetition:

The words first used with a baby are often simple repetitions of babyish sounds. They don't have a particular meaning, but are used simply to interact with the little one:

Coochie coochie

Coo coo

Goo goo

Ga ga

Later, the same approach is used with many informal words:

moo-moo - a cow

woof - woof - a dog

puss-puss - a cat

yum-yum - food or tasty

tut-tut - to indicate disapproval or criticism

A young child will often speak with simple repetitions:

mama - mother

dada - father

baba - baby

Repetition with a sound change:

This is a fairly common feature of English. In fact, it is not used only in the world of baby talk. You can change the opening sound - this is common in baby talk:

doggy woggy - a dog

easy peasy - very easy

boo hoo - the sound of crying

Or, you might change a middle vowel sound:

ping pong - table tennis

clip-clop - the sound of a horse walking

ding dong - the sound of a bell

Intonation:

When we talk to babies, we often exaggerate our intonation and keep the pitch of the sound high. Importantly, we often over-stress the vowel sounds, making them clearer than we would in normal speech.

Vocabulary:

monitor (v):
watch very closely

you're a natural (informal):
you're really suited (to nursing), you have a natural ability (for nursing)

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