We don’t talk to infants the same way we talk to adults: almost automatically, we shorten our sentences, stretch out words, and exaggerate our pitch. This ‘baby talk’, or child-directed speech, appears across languages and across cultures. Why do we talk to children like this; does child-directed speech play a role in helping babies to learn language?
To answer this question, the Communication and Learn- ing Lab (CaLLab) is taking part in a multi-university, multi-national research project called ManyBabies. Here in Chicago, we are working with infants between 9 and 14 months old, and the group is studying an even wider range. Collaborating with over 50 labs in more than 10 countries, this new study promises to be one of the larg- est ever to address how babies learn language.
This kind of scientific collaboration is an important tool that allows researchers to pool resources to answer really big questions, and to understand how these answers gen-
eralize across languages and cultures. By working with so many children all over the country (and globe!), this project will help us figure out how babies of different ages and backgrounds listen to and learn from child directed speech. Many different labs had a voice in the develop- ment of the study and now we will all come together, using the same images and sounds with a few different study methods.
Participating in this study also helps us to improve the science that we do here at the Center for Early Child- hood Research. Discovery and change are fundamen- tal to the scientific process, and as such, there is always room to do even better science! This new collaborative project will help us answer questions about how science works and how people try to answer the same question in different ways. Teamwork has always been an import- ant part of science and this project is one of the first in Developmental Psychology to take that idea even further to implement large-scale teamwork.
If you have a child who is 9-14 months old and are inter- ested in participating, we would love to hear from you!