Motherese – die Bedeutung von Babytalk in der sprachlichen Entwicklung von Babys
Motherese, also known as parent talk or baby talk, is a linguistic way of interaction between parents and babies. Motherese is a type of language used by parents and caregivers when interacting with infants. It is also known as nurse talk. Motherese is characterized by high pitch, slow and simple pronunciation, repetition, exaggerated emphasis on words, and short sentences.

This type of speech is a natural way to communicate with infants and young children and plays an important role in language development. Researchers have discovered that fetal directed speech (FDS) can be heard during pregnancy. FDS correlates with early perceptions of fetal movement and maternal depression levels. Higher levels of FDS may therefore be a useful signal for clinicians to detect prenatal depression and maternal involvement during pregnancy.

Motherese as a factor in babies' language development

Parents' use of motherese is an important factor in babies' language development. It helps to strengthen the bond between parents and babies and promotes language development. Parents who talk a lot with their babies and offer them simple and clear language support, help the children in language development and in the training of language skills.

Motherese language had fallen into disrepute for a while, but unjustly. Babies in the first year of life are dependent on the motherese for language acquisition.

How does it work? Very young infants can distinguish a greater variety of phonemes than adults. Adults have lost the ability to make phonemic distinctions that are not important in their native language (Saffran & Thiessen, 2003). Toddlers and babys are remarkably well prepared to decode an adapted language. Adults reliably vary their tone of voice when communicating with preverbal infants. These intonation prompts are often successful in influencing a baby's mood or behavior. Preverbal infants not only distinguish different intonation patterns, but also recognize that certain voice pitches have special meaning. In the second half of the first year they get used to the rhythm of the language, which helps them to break down what they hear first into sentences and then into words.

It is important to be aware of the difference between motherese and multimodal motherese.

Multimodal motherese refers to the use of multiple communication channels in addition to spoken language when communicating with infants and young children. These channels can include gesture, facial expression, touch, and gaze. Multimodal motherese is believed to help infants and young children better understand and learn language, as well as develop social and emotional skills.

In summary, motherese is a way of speaking, while multimodal motherese is a way of communicating that includes multiple communication channels.

However, there are some parents and carers who do not use this language. The reason for this may be because they believe that using baby talk might interfere with the child's language development. Or they find mothjerese embarrassing. However, it is important to note that the lack of motherese when interacting with young children can result in reduced language development.

One study also found that infants who give less than 30% of their attention to motherese had a 94% chance of being diagnosed with autism.

The importance and meaningfulness of motherese is also made clear by the fact that it is part of the (transcultural) "intuitive parenting program". If this speech were not important and meaningful, we would not find it in almost all cultures.

The role of vocabulary in infant language development

Another important factor in babies' language development is the vocabulary used by their parents. The language of parents talking to babies at play contains a higher level of language stimuli. The parent language is tailored to the needs and interests of the baby. Babies who are approached on motherese often develop a broader vocabulary.


Motherese can thus be viewed as a key aspect of language development that has far-reaching implications for child development. Parents and caregivers can support their child by speaking purposefully and lovingly to their child and paying attention to their language development. Recognizing signs such as low interest in motherese could also be a marker for autism, allowing for early diagnosis and targeted treatment.


Developmental Psychology
Childhood and Adolescence
David Shaffer,
Katherine Kipp

    Written by Mara Schär

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