The Secret Life of the Brain
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Episode 2: The Child's Brain - The Purpose of Motherese
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Video segment on "Motherese." Watch the Video
Babies learn to speak by listening. And all of us all over the world help them, modulating the sounds of the quicksilver flow of speech in fundamentally the same way. Put simply, when we speak to infants we speak in a very funny style. When confronted with a baby, adults produce a signal that is raised about an octave in pitch and slows down very carefully and creates these swooping contours. It's not a job interview voice. It's a very distinct voice that's fetching to a baby. Why would every person on the planet do it if it's not important?

Doctors and scientists have analyzed it every which way, and learned that adults make an unconscious effort to stretch the signals, exaggerate the acoustic components that are exactly the dimensions that the baby needs to pay attention to in order to form the maps for speech.

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