Early Childhood Communication: Adult Language

Last week we spoke a bit about the characteristics of child-directed speech or “baby talk”. This type of speech is often used by adults with infants and has specific characteristics that make it a recognizable speech pattern. Today, we’ll talk a little bit about how parents and caregivers utilize baby talk to capture an infant’s attention and improve language development.

Content: Child-directed speech with infants clearly differs in content from typical speech, since the conversation is almost entirely one sided. Because of this, baby talk involves a huge amount of greeting (e.g. “Hi! Hi, baby!”), questioning (e.g. “What’s that? What are you looking at?”), and labeling (e.g. “Ooh, that’s doggie. And that’s a kitty.”). In between each utterance, the adult will often pause for a response from the baby, treating any sort of interaction as an actual conversational response, even if it is only a giggle or sneeze.

Self-Talk and Parallel Talk: Often when adults are with a child, they will narrate the events that are occurring. In self talk, the adult narrates what they themselves are doing. For example, during a bath, they may say, “I’m putting soap in your hair. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Now we wash it out. All clean!” Parallel talk is similar, but the adult narrates the child’s actions. For example: “Ooh, you’re playing with the car. You’re pushing it on rug. Push, push, push!” This type of adult speech may help children to gradually connect action with language.

Expansion: When children start to produce actual words, adults will often expand on their utterances, putting them into a longer phrase and adding information. For example, if a child points to the family dog and says “Doggie!”, the adult may reply with, “Yes, that’s a doggie! He’s a nice doggie. The doggie says, ‘woof!’”

Recasting: At early language development phrases, adults may recast a child’s speech, or repeat it in a different, more grammatically correct fashion. For example, if the child says, “Kitty eat,” the adult may follow with, “Yes, the kitty is eating.”

Are you concerned about your child’s speech or language development? At Speech Associates of New York, our team of professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists provide in-home evaluations and therapy. Each of our professionals is trained in the assessment and treatment of a range of pediatric and adult speech, language and communication disorders. Call us today at (917) 841-2965 and find out how we can help your child communicate their best!

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