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'Parentese,' not traditional baby talk, boosts a baby's language development – CTV News

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“Goo goo ga ga? Are wu my widdle baby?” If your idea of “baby talk” makes you throw up in your mouth a little, then it’s time to get educated.

True baby talk, which a new study shows can boost infant brain and speech development, is actually proper adult speech, just delivered in a different cadence.

“It uses real words and correct grammar, but it does use a higher pitch, a slower tempo and an exaggerated intonation,” said Naja Ferjan Ramirez, an assistant professor at the department of linguistics at the University of Washington.

“What people think of as baby talk is a combination of silly sounds and words, sometimes with incorrect grammar,” Ferjan Ramirez explained, “like ‘Oooh, your shozie wozies on your widdle feets.’ “


‘Not just listening but talking’

A parenting speaking style that is used in nearly every language in the world, true “baby talk” became known as “motherese” and today is called “parentese” — because, after all, it’s not just moms who use it. Many dads, grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles and babysitters speak parentese, intuitively aware that it helps the baby tune in socially and respond, even if only through babbling.

“Parentese has three characteristics,” said Patricia Kuhl, the co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, who has been studying children’s early language learning for decades.

“One of them is that it has a higher overall pitch, about an octave higher,” Kuhl said. “Another is that intonation contours are very curvy; the highs are higher, the lows are lower, and it sounds excited and happy.

“And then it’s slower, with pauses between phrases to give the baby time to participate in this social interaction,” Kuhl said.

As it turns out, encouraging the “social brain” is key to boosting a baby’s speech and language development, said Kuhl, an internationally known pioneer in the use of brain imaging.

And babies instinctively prefer it — as if they are wired to respond. Maybe they are.

Kuhl shared a video from an older experiment starring 7-month-old “Paul” to illustrate a baby’s preference for parentese.

In the black and white video, Paul sits on his mother’s lap in an enclosed space. On Paul’s left side, out of site behind a wall, a woman speaks eight seconds of parentese. On his right, a woman speaks in a normal adult tone. Paul samples both, then consistently prefers the voice speaking parentese.

Kuhl’s lab has done studies which show when infants listen to speech, “not only does the auditory cortex area in their brain light up, but the motor areas that will eventually speak light up,” she said, showing the baby is getting ready to talk back.

“The more parents naturally use parentese in their homes when speaking to their children, the better and faster those language skills develop,” Kuhl said. “So, it turns out that parentese is a social catalyst for language. It gets kids not just listening but talking.”


Can you boost parentese with coaching?

In 2018, Kuhl and Ferjan Ramirez published a study that showed when parents were coached in parentese, their babies babbled more and had more words by 14 months than those who were not trained.

In a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team reports on speech development in the same group of babies at 18 months. Despite the fact that all 48 participating families used some parentese at the start of the study, it was the babies of coached parents who showed significant gains in conversational turn-taking and vocalizations between 14 and 18 months.

“Children of coached parents produced real words, such as ball or milk, at almost twice the rate of children whose parents were in the control group,” Ferjan Ramirez said.

In addition, she said, babies whose parents were coached had an average vocabulary of 100 words compared to the 60 words in the control group.

Just how did researchers measure the improvement over this period? For an entire weekend when the babies were 6, 10, 14 and 18-months old, all 48 sets of dressed their babies with vests with built-in audio recorders that captured all of their interactions.

Then parents randomly assigned to receive instruction then came into the lab for one-on-one coaching when their baby was 6, 10 and 14 months.

After receiving education on the science behind the benefits of speaking to their babies, the parents also listened to themselves using parentese. They were also coached on how to incorporate more such speak into the day, and encouraged to engage their babies in back-and-forth exchanges called conversational turns.

In the lab, an interaction is counted as a “turn” if the baby responds with an utterance within a second or two, Kuhl explained, with more turn-taking highly correlated with the baby’s future success in language.

“Babies need to be engaged socially in order to learn language. They have to have a drive to communicate. They have to want to, and parentese seems to help make them want to,” Kuhl said.

The study is continuing. At this time the babies are about three, old enough to undergo brain imaging with new MRIs that, Kuhl stresses, are quite safe at that age. While publication of any new findings will take time, Kuhl is encouraged.

“Measures of language skill continue to show that the kids in the coached group are way ahead of the kids in the control group,” Kuhl said. “And scans of white and gray matter in the brain will show if there are permanent changes induced by this style of interacting with a child.

“Have we strengthened the connectivity between the areas of the brain responsible for language development?” Kuhl asked. “I’ll be very interested to find out.”

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Move over, Stegosaurus, there’s a new armored dino in town – Popular Science

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Paleontologists in southern Argentina have recently discovered an adorable, five-foot-long armored dinosaur. The Jakapil kaniukura roamed the Earth during the hot and humid Cretaceous period roughly between 145.5 and 65.5 million years ago, and weighed 9 to 15 pounds–the size of the average domestic cat. 

The tiny dino’s fossilized remains were dug up during multiple digs over the over the past 10 years near a dam in Patagonia’s Río Negro province. The province is home to the La Buitrera palaeontological zone, a region well-known for the discovery of three complete southern raptors (Unenlagia) skeletons, herbivorous terrestrial crocodiles, the oldest found chelid turtles, and more.

Jakapil is part of the Thyreophoran dinosaur group that lived from the Jurassic period to the early Cretaceous period whose name means “shield bearer.” This feisty-looking group includes the bony backed, spiky tailed Stegosaurus and the tank-like Ankylosaurus. Like its prickly cousins, Jakapil had built in physical defenses, with rows of bony oval-shaped armor along its neck, back, and down to its tail.

[Related: This fossilized butthole gives us a rare window into dinosaur sex.]

“It bears unusual anatomical features showing that several traits traditionally associated with the heavy Cretaceous thyreophorans did not occur universally,” wrote the study’s authors, Facundo J. Riguetti, Sebastián Apesteguía, and Xabier Pereda-Suberbiola. “Jakapil also shows that early thyreophorans had a much broader geographic distribution than previously thought.”

The team published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports on August 11th. They first discovered Jakapil’s partial skeleton alongside 15 tooth fragments, which revealed that jakapil’s teeth were leaf-shaped like a modern-day iguana’s. 

According to lead paleontologist Sebastián Apesteguía, Jakapil marks the first-of-its-kind discovery of an armored dinosaur from the Cretaceous in South America. It also resembles a more primitive form of thyreophoran dinosaur that lived in the area significantly earlier. 

“Thyreophorans originated about 200 million years ago and rapidly evolved into various species distributed throughout the world,” Riguetti, first author of the work and a Conicet doctoral fellow at the Center for Biomedical, Environmental and Diagnostic Studies at Maimónides University said in a release. “However,of these early thyreophorans, the lineage represented by ‘Jakapil’ was the only one that lasted until at least 100 million years ago.”

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Full moon may hinder most anticipated meteor shower of the year – DiscoverWestman.com

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This weekend is the peak of Perseid’s meteor shower, one of the best-known and largest celestial events that can be seen from Earth.

Throughout the past couple of days, meteors have been visible to on-lookers and will get an even better view during the event’s peak on Friday night.

“Meteors are these tiny little pieces of space dust that crash into the earth and burn up, and when that happens we see them in the sky as a falling star or a shooting star,” says Scott Young, the Planetarium Astronomer at the Manitoba Museum. “The meteor is sort of the official name for those objects, and on any night you can probably see one or two of those if you’re lucky, but on certain nights of the year, the Earth goes through a big cloud of cosmic dust and when you get all that dust hitting the Earth all on the same night, you get lots of meteors. So we call that a meteor shower.”

Young also says that it won’t look as if thousands of stars are falling out of the sky, but rather it will be one star every minute instead of one a night.

“It always occurs every year around August 11-13, somewhere in that range because we’re going through the dust bunny left behind by a comet that crosses Earth’s orbit. Now, that doesn’t always mean that you will see all of those things hitting the Earth, and the timing might happen during the day for you. It might be cloudy, or like this year, close to the full moon. When the full moon is up, it makes it hard to see some of those fainter meteors that you would see.”

The best time to see any meteor shower is between midnight and dawn. According to Young, even with the bright light of the full moon on the same night as the peak time to see meteors, it is a strong enough shower that viewers will still be able to see shooting stars. 

“The official peak occurs after midnight, Friday night, so Saturday morning around 3:00 a.m. our time. But to be honest, it’s not a single-night event. It builds up over a previous couple of weeks and each night there’ll be more and more meteor showers until the peak and then after the peak, it fades away for a couple of weeks.”

The comet that causes the meteor shower is comet Swift–Tuttle, discovered by Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell Tuttle in 1862.

“Each meteor shower over the course of the year has its own source objects, most of them are comets and we know that when we get close to the comet’s orbit in our orbit, we’ll see this meteor shower. They’re actually named after the constellations in the sky where the meteors look like they’re coming from. When we’re looking at the sky, it seems that the meteors from the Perseid meteor shower will come from the constellation Perseus, which is rising in the northeastern part of the sky at this time of year. That doesn’t mean you have to know where Perseus is, the meteors can appear all over the sky.”

To get the best view of the meteor shower peak, Young suggests viewers go to a place where there are not a lot of lights and even “put your back towards any bright lights that are like the moon or city lights.” He also suggests putting the phone away, because the bright light will cause your eyes to need time to adjust to the dark sky and some of the dimmer shooting stars may be missed.

“This is one of those things where you have to unplug, disconnect and just lay out under the stars, relax and look up. it’s a great therapeutic way to connect with the sky.”

Normally on the peak day of the event, Young will go out with an all-sky camera and broadcast live on the Manitoba Museum’s Facebook and YouTube pages, but he says it always depends on the weather.

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Talk like you: Scientists discover why humans evolved to talk while other primates can’t – Euronews

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Why did humans evolve to talk, while monkeys were left to hoot, squeak and grunt to communicate?

The question has long puzzled scientists, who blamed our closest primate cousins’ inability to reproduce human speech sounds on their vocal anatomy.

Until now, researchers could not quite underpin what happened exactly during our evolution to make us able to speak while apes and monkeys can’t, given our vocal structures look almost identical to other primates.

Now, a new study published on Thursday in the journal Science claims to have the answer – and it’s not what anyone expected.

Analysing the phonal apparatus – the larynx – of 43 species of primates, a team of researchers based mainly in Japan found that all non-human primates – from orangutans to chimpanzees – had an additional feature in their throat that humans do not have.

Ability to speak and develop languages

While both humans and non-human primates produce sounds by forcing air through their larynges, causing folds of tissue to vibrate, monkeys and apes have an additional feature, a thin flap of tissue known as vocal membranes, or vocal lips.

Compared to apes and monkeys, humans were found to lack this anatomical vocal membrane – a small muscle just above the vocal cords – as well as balloon-like laryngeal structures called air sacs which apes and monkeys use to produce the loud calls and screams we’re not quite capable of.

According to the researchers, humans have lost this extra vocal tissue over time, somehow simplifying and stabilising the sounds coming out of our throat, and allowing us, in time, to develop the ability to speak – and eventually develop very complex sophisticated languages.

Monkeys and apes, on the other hand, maintained these vocal lips which don’t really allow them to control the inflection and register of their voice and produce stable, clear vocal fold vibrations.

“Paradoxically, the increased complexity of human spoken language thus followed simplification of our laryngeal anatomy,” says the study.

Communication through sign language

It’s unclear when humans lost these extra tissues still present in apes and monkeys and became able to speak, as the soft tissues in the larynx are not preserved in fossils, and researchers could only study living species.

We know that it must have happened sometime after the Homo Sapiens lineage split from the other primates, some 6-7 million years ago.

The fact that apes and monkeys haven’t developed the ability to speak like humans doesn’t mean that they are not able to clearly communicate with each other.

Though their vocal anatomy doesn’t allow them to form vowel sounds and proper words, non-human primates have a complex communication system based primarily on body language rather than oral sounds.

But monkeys and apes have also proven to be able to communicate with humans.

In the not-often-happy history of the interaction between non-human primates and humans, researchers have been able to teach apes and monkeys to communicate with people.

Koko the gorilla, for example, became famous for being able to use over 1,000 hand signs in sign language, while the bonobo Kanzi was reportedly able to communicate using a keyboard.

But when it comes to having a chat, monkeys and humans might never be able to share one.

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