Moms might chat with little kids in a hyperarticulate cooing glissando — you know, baby talk — but dads don’t always follow suit. So suggests a new, albeit small, study from researchers at Washington State University’s Speech and Language Lab.
By affixing recording devices to preschoolers, the acoustical experts were able to generate more than 150 hours of parents talking to their little kids. Compared with the motherese (about 40 Hz higher than average) the researchers expected, dad speech was much closer in tone and pattern to what the men used when talking to other adults.
If the results are universal, it doesn’t mean that every dad is doomed to be a bad parent — just that fathers and mothers don’t play quite the same role, said Mark VanDam, who led the WSU study, in a statement. VanDam invoked the so-called bridge hypothesis, in which dads might act as a link to the outside world, introducing unfamiliar vocab that moms might not use.
Science, however, still has no answer for what it means when you catch annoying new couples using cutesy sing-song voices, beyond making everyone else want to take a lit match to the eardrums.