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Does your pitch instinctively go up when you talk to your baby? Do you immediately turn into some kind of wildlife-loving cartoon princess who speaks in singsong while explaining colors to an infant?

If so, you'll be pleased to know science is high-fiving you for a job well done. This type of speech appears to really help babies learn, and now a team of mathematicians thinks they might know why.

Studying how we talk to babies is nothing new. Some earlier research has demonstrated a significant increase in language skills in babies whose parents use "parentese" or "motherese" - that natural type of baby talk many people use when addressing wee ones - compared to babies whose parents did not.

In one particular study, parents who spoke to their little ones using baby talk ended up knowing twice the number of words by their second birthday. If that isn't significant, I don't know what is.

"But wait a minute," says anyone who has been following parenting trends for a while. "Haven't there also been studies claiming the exact opposite? Haven't we also been told speaking in parentese delays speech, and that we should talk to our babies in the same way we do to adults? I'm so confused!"

You're not the only one.

But before you tear off your princess dress in protest, read on.

Yes, the findings of these studies are conflicting. On one hand, some researchers argue using baby talk emphasizes certain vowel sounds, making them easier to learn. On the other hand, another set of researchers say, while this is true, parentese also crams other vowel sounds together, making them harder to learn.

So who's right? How on earth do we best communicate with little beings with rapidly developing brains?

Enter the mathematicians.

Remember them? They wanted to put this whole debate to bed. So a group of them at Rutgers University used computer modelling to find out if baby talk is really where it's at. You can read the very detailed paper here, or read on for a busy parent's simple summary.

The team decided to let a computer teach another computer the English language. The teaching computer had various frequencies used in making vowel sounds to choose from that it could share with the student computer. By slowly feeding sample sounds to the student computer and watching its learning patterns, the teaching computer was quickly able to figure out what sounds worked best for learning the language.

The results were clear. The teaching computer wound up using mostly parentese-like vowel sounds with the student computer, as this was how the language was learned most efficiently.

Like many parents, the computer used hyperarticulation - or emphasis - on vowel sounds that may be easily confused with other similar sounds. Some sounds were also hypoarticulated - or de-emphasized - for the same reason. The student computer ate up this method of learning just like a baby's brain would.

Thanks to studies like these, scientists are now getting closer to figuring out why parents around the world instinctively use baby talk with their little ones, no matter what language they're trying to teach them.

So don't be so quick to put down the singsong book and hang up the princess dress. You could be helping your child get a marvelous head start on language.

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