English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Prompted by this question, what's a good word/expression for an adult adopting childlike speech/mannerisms when dealing with an infant?

I mean where the adult speaks in an exaggeratedly "sing-song" voice, uses childish words like bow-wow for dog, choo-choo for train, etc. A style which would be called condescending if used with another adult.

share|improve this question
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The usual term in linguistics is "motherese", but "child-directed speech" is a bit more politically correct.

share|improve this answer

I've heard it referred to as baby-talk.

share|improve this answer

The first word that comes to my mind is patronizing

share|improve this answer
Well I did say it would be patronising/condescending when directed at another adult, but that's not really a factor with babies/children. Actually, I wanted a generic term for the communication style, so one adult could say the equivalent of Don't patronise me! to another, using a word that could neutrally describe how Mummy talks to her little treasure. – FumbleFingers Oct 18 '11 at 21:00

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.