Daily Bread for 7.24.22: ‘Parentese’ as a True Lingua Franca

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will see morning showers with a high of 83. Sunrise is 5:39 AM and sunset 8:23 PM for 14h 44m 27s of daytime.  The moon is a waning crescent with 15% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1935, the Dust Bowl heat wave reaches its peak, sending temperatures to 109 °F (43 °C) in Chicago and 104 °F (40 °C) in Milwaukee. See also Why the Dust Bowl was hotter than this heat wave, despite global warming.

Photo by Raul Angel on Unsplash

Why argue over politics (lit., the activities or affairs engaged in by a government, politician, or political party)? One argues over politics so that society might be free to pursue science, industry, art, and philosophy. A recent study on parents’ communication with their children reminds how much an unencumbered people can accomplish. Oliver Whang reports ‘Parentese’ Is Truly a Lingua Franca, Global Study Finds (‘In an ambitious cross-cultural study, researchers found that adults around the world speak and sing to babies in similar ways’):

We’ve all seen it, we’ve all cringed at it, we’ve all done it ourselves: talked to a baby like it was, you know, a baby.

“Ooo, hellooooo baby!” you say, your voice lilting like a rapturously accommodating Walmart employee. Baby is utterly baffled by your unintelligible warble and your shamelessly doofus grin, but “baby so cuuuuuute!”

Regardless of whether it helps to know it, researchers recently determined that this sing-songy baby talk — more technically known as “parentese” — seems to be nearly universal to humans around the world. In the most wide-ranging study of its kind, more than 40 scientists helped to gather and analyze 1,615 voice recordings from 410 parents on six continents, in 18 languages from diverse communities: rural and urban, isolated and cosmopolitan, internet savvy and off the grid, from hunter gatherers in Tanzania to urban dwellers in Beijing.

The results, published recently in the journal Nature Human Behavior, showed that in every one of these cultures, the way parents spoke and sang to their infants differed from the way they communicated with adults — and that those differences were profoundly similar from group to group.

“We tend to speak in this higher pitch, high variability, like, ‘Ohh, heeelloo, you’re a baaybee!’” said Courtney Hilton, a psychologist at Haskins Laboratories at Yale University and a principal author of the study. Cody Moser, a graduate student studying cognitive science at the University of California, Merced, and the other principal author, added: “When people tend to produce lullabies or tend to talk to their infants, they tend to do so in the same way.”

The findings suggest that baby talk and baby song serve a function independent of cultural and social forces. They lend a jumping off point for future baby research and, to some degree, tackle the lack of diverse representation in psychology. To make cross-cultural claims about human behavior requires studies from many different societies. Now, there is a big one.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars past daytime moon during launch:


A SpaceX tracking camera captured a Falcon 9 rocket and the moon during the launch of a new batch of Starlink satellites on July 22, 2022. (video is looped several times).

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments