Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Baby Talk

Why do we talk differently to babies? Baby talk, also called motherese, parentese and infant-directed speech, is an almost universal behaviour where adults will talk in a special way with very young children. It is characterised by sing-songy, high-pitched voices and the use of simplified words with slow, accentuated vowels. It is seen across various cultures and languages across the globe, with some studies showing that babies show preference to baby talk over “adult talk” from as young as 7 weeks old.

As instinctive and silly as it may sound, baby talk actually serves many important purposes. Language acquisition is a complex developmental process. Language is not something we are born with, but something we learn. Baby talk happens to be an effective tool to help teach babies how language works.

There are many features of baby talk that makes it so effective.

First, there is the tonal element. High-pitched cooing voices are comforting for babies, as they associate it with positive emotions. This contrasts to grumbling, low tones and yelling, which would upset them. The musical element also attracts their attention.

Second, by slowing your speech and lengthening the vowels, babies can identify individual words easier, amongst what would sound like a “sound soup” to them. This also gives them a chance to try to imitate you and practise speaking.

Third, by using more adjectives in front of nouns, such as “big red car” or “choo choo train”, we help babies associate objects with their names, while giving them qualities to make it more memorable. The process not only helps them build vocabulary, but trains them in the art of forming associations in their head.

Fourth, we tend to state the obvious and give more of a running commentary, filling in the gaps with more descriptions. This lets the baby know what is happening and helps them be more aware of their surroundings.

Lastly, there is the social element, where by using a special voice, we mentally switch ourselves into “baby mode”. This lets us focus our attention on the baby, while conveying that we care and love for the child.

We tend to use baby talk when talking with pets and other animals as well, but there is research to suggest that in the case of dogs, it does not make much difference other than for puppies and dogs react no differently compared to “adult talk”. It is also commonly used as part of flirtation as part of acting “cute”.

Baby talk is not something that is explicitly taught, yet most people instinctively use it when interacting with a baby. It is an example of how our desire to do best for the next generation is ingrained into us – both naturally and socially.

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Posted in History & Literature

Language

If one was, for some twisted and malicious reason, wished to systematically destroy a culture, what would the first step be? Genocide? Brainwashing? The answer is destroying the native language.

Language is the skeleton that supports the culture of the people. It is an integral part of every culture that allows for effective communication of ideas and thoughts. Each language is tailor-made for a certain culture and best exhibits the culture’s character and ways. Language is one of the greatest inventions of mankind as it allowed for the preservation of thought. If you do not record thought into words, it may be distorted, warped or worse – be forgotten. Using words, one can pass on knowledge to others, even in the future. This is essentially what culture is: a collection of ideas and knowledge that we inherit from our predecessors.

As these thoughts were recorded in one language, there is bound to be some distortion during translation. We can often see examples of barriers in communication due to the inability to properly translate a word from one language to another. If you cannot describe an idea with words, it is extremely difficult to preserve the idea. Ergo, by destroying the language of the people and enforcing your own on them, you can mutilate or eradicate their culture over time. Of course, since language is a major part of the endemic culture, you have gotten off to a great start already. When the people lose their language, they become susceptible to being assimilated into another culture. Slowly, they talk and think like the oppressors until they lose all identity of their roots.

During the early 20th century when Imperial Japan was invading neighbouring countries, they used the exact same method to try and eliminate other cultures. They outlawed the native language and enforced the use of Japanese. To protect their cultural identity, Koreans (and other countries invaded by Japan) had to teach children in underground schools at the risk of torture or death. The preservation of the Korean language allowed the people to unite with strong patriotism, fuelling the resistance against the oppressors. Without the dedication of the people, who knows how much precious cultural heritage would have been lost forever.

When the people lose their language, they lose their voice. When people lose their voice, they lose their identity. When they lose their identity, they lose the fight.

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Posted in Philosophy

Wolf And Sheep Problem

If two wolves and one sheep vote on what to eat, it could be called a democracy. However, the result would obviously be against the best interest of the sheep. This problem, known as the wolf/sheep problem, is caused by the misunderstanding of the principles of democracy and is abused by many countries. Under a democratic system, a government is able to steal from the minority groups and redistribute it to the majority. Can such a system be called democratic?

The correct definition for democracy is: “a system where the people have power and are able to voice their individual opinions”. But if the minority opinion is silenced and ignored by the majority as described above, then that goes against the true spirit of democracy. Many confuse democracy with the principle of majority rule, which is only one method used to integrate the people’s opinions with politics. Ergo, the government has a duty to protect the voice and rights of the minority. The three most important of such rights are the freedom of political expression, speech and the press.

A democratic government should be a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Unfortunately, so many governments violate the meaning of democracy just as the two wolves prey on the sheep.

A wise person would not leave their fate in the hands of such a system.

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