Maternés: The Communication Style We Use With Babies


It is possible that the concept of motherhood is unknown to more than one person, although it is most likely that they have used it on some occasion or will use it at some point.

For example when a friend or family member introduces us to their baby, or directly when we have children. Maternese is the affectionate and at the same time peculiar language that we usually use when interacting with babies and very young children. In this article we are going to briefly talk about this way of communicating.

What is maternés?

Maternese or parentés, also known as caregiver language or speech, is the style of speech and nonverbal expression that we typically use to address a baby. It is a dialect of the language that we use to communicate that has its own characteristics in terms of intonation, grammar or even lexis.

This way of communicating uses very careful pronunciation and vocalization in which exaggerated intonation stands out, sharpening the voice and clearly separating words and phrases. These tend to be short and repetitive, and focus on the present.

Another striking characteristic of this type of speech is that the lexicon is usually simplified: the words are reduced (changing pacifier for pete is an example) or even transformed to become onomatopoeic (for example, talking about woof-woof instead of use the word dog). It is also common that structures, words and phrases are repeated in short periods. Likewise, it is common for diminutives to be abused.

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But Maternés is not only oral, but we also usually accompany this dialect with abundant gestures, physical contact and expression through body language. For example, we smile, touch them, point out things in the environment or act surprised when we see, for example, a dog.

Likewise, the person speaking is not doing a monologue, but rather is interacting with the baby and in fact some type of dialogue generally develops, with the baby responding with movements, looking or seeking our gaze, kicking, chirping or making some sound. . We usually respond to these answers orally or rewarding the little one with our attention or cuddles.

The importance of this way of speaking

We generally use Maternese without thinking exactly why, and some people find it ridiculous and ineffective. However, its use with a baby makes a lot of sense and is very useful for its development.

And first of all, the intonation we use with Maternese is highly emotional and tends to reflect positive emotions and feelings towards the infant, which facilitates the existence of positive communication and the establishment of emotional relationships between baby and speaker. Likewise, as we have said, we do not limit ourselves to talking and that’s it, but we have an interaction that the baby captures and to which she responds, establishing links with the adult or person who communicates with him.

Besides, variations in intonation and exaggerated accentuation They involve stimuli that attract the attention of the baby, who will tend to focus more on the sounds and their source than compared to adult speech.

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Generally, this exaggerated accentuation takes place in fragments of speech that contain relevant properties to be learned, making it easier for the baby to record them in the future. The boy or girl listen to phrases that are not very complex and that little by little will become understandable, being able to go deeper after that. It is therefore a very important language that, although it does not in itself create language learning, contributes and facilitates its acquisition.

Not just with babies: who else do we use it with?

Although Maternese is a style of speech that we may or may not use, generally It is carried out with subjects that awaken certain physiological reactions in us, triggering the synthesis of different hormones. Among them, dopamine, oxytocin (associated with emotional bonding) and phenylethylamine, also associated with emotional bonding, stand out.

Of course, this does not mean that the use or non-use of maternes depends on these hormones (in fact, although it is common in our society, in other contexts it is not used even though the emotional reactions generated by children are the same).

Generally when talking about Maternese we imagine someone talking and communicating with a newborn or a small child. But the truth is that this type of speech It does not apply only to maternity or paternity but it has spread to other areas.

1. Pets

One of them is pets. It is not uncommon to hear someone speak Maternese with dogs, cats, rabbits or other animals, usually when they are being affectionate. Although many of the animals that keep us company are not able to really understand what we say (despite being able to understand a specific request with training), they are able to capture the intonation and emotionality imprinted on it.

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2. Relationships

Another area in which the same language that we would apply with a child is sometimes applied is in that of the couple. Although in this case the understanding of the language is usually complete on the part of both, some couples use Maternese. as a way to interact emotionallyas a way to express the appreciation, devotion or sweetness that the other person awakens, or as a little joke to tease your partner.