I read a kids’ story book. In the story book, it says:

I talk dog talk to the dog.

[. . . .]

I talk baby talk to the baby, and the baby talks back to me.
Source: Talk, Talk, Talk, by Joy Cowley

Is it grammatically correct?

  • 3
    By the way you should say is it grammatically correct?
    – Bizhan
    Nov 24, 2014 at 13:57
  • 2
    Also, "it says", rather than "it saying". But yes, that sentence is; though "dog talk" isn't anywhere near as common as "baby talk", it's clear by extension from "baby talk" what it would mean, especially in that context.
    – neminem
    Nov 24, 2014 at 18:03

4 Answers 4


These sentences are a bit confusing at first glance, and would be a lot more readable if the writer employed a hyphen or quotation marks:

I talk dog-talk to the dog.

I talk "baby talk" to the baby.

(I assume that "I talk dog-talk" means that I am saying things like, "Woof woof!")

See OneLook for the definition of baby talk.

At least one author uses a hyphen:

The use of baby-talk into toddlerhood needs to be questioned.
(Source: Kind: Kids Independent, Not Dependent, by Mélodie Dupuis, 2010)

One could also reduce some of the confusion by changing the verb talk to use (and, as a result, the preposition to to with):

I use dog talk with the dog.

I use baby talk with the baby.

  • 8
    I suspect the confusion was deliberate; either that, or the writer was enjoying the sound patterns.
    – TRiG
    Nov 24, 2014 at 18:27
  • 1
    There is a talking dog in Pratchett's novels that sometimes says "woof", "growl" or "bark" instead of actually woofing, growling or barking. I guess there are two distinct kinds of dog-talk. Nov 25, 2014 at 11:15
  • 2
    @RedGritty - Reminds me of the old corny joke about a man in a bar trying to prove his dog can talk. He asks, "What sits atop a house?" The dog replies, "Roof! Roof!" He asks, "What surrounds a tree?" and the dog answers, "Bark!" He asks, "How would you describe sandpaper?" The dog replies, "Ruff! Ruff!" Sensing an agitated crowd, he asks one more question: "Who's the greatest baseball player of all time?" The dog answers, "Ruth! Ruth!" and both the man and his dog are tossed out the front door. On the sidewalk, the dog looks up sadly at his owner, and says, "Should I have said ‘Willy Mays’?"
    – J.R.
    Nov 25, 2014 at 13:38

I don't want to talk down to anyone or sound like I'm talking sense into anybody, but let's talk turkey. Talking 'baby talk' is fine. Talking dog-talk also.

Saying talk requires in, is talking double-talk, or maybe talking tripe.

Some further examples of 'talk ...' words at thefreedictionary.

Also, they've talked this out on EL&U.

Now, I'm all talked out.

Talk later.


However odd it looks, the sentence seems grammatically correct to me.

I'm reading the sentence this way:

I talk x to y.

x is "dog talk", and y is "the dog". Here, "dog talk" is a noun phrase based on a noun adjunct.

The difficulty here is in parsing the sentence into its grammatical units. "Dog talk" is not a common phrase, and the word "talk" is being used in different ways:

  • The first use ("I talk dog talk...") is as a verb, to speak to or communicate with somebody.
  • The second use ("I talk dog talk...") is as a noun, a metaphor for "language".

Not really, No.

Consider how you would say: "I speak English with my family."

Similarly you should say, "I speak baby talk with the baby." Not "I talk...to"

And I agree that they should really be hyphenated as well: baby-talk, dog-talk.

Alternatively, you could say that you "talk in English" or that you "talk in baby-talk".

  • Merriam-Webster appears to disagree with you. It has an entry for a transitive form of "talk" that means the same as "speak" merriam-webster.com/dictionary/talk See definition 4 under "transitive verb" Nov 24, 2014 at 20:47
  • @TimSeguine I went there and expected to find some example with the preposition "to" but didn't find any. I upvoted this answer because I wanted to see how you sort out "to" with "talk".
    – learner
    Nov 24, 2014 at 21:06
  • 1
    @Octopus I probably wouldn't say it, personally. But I have heard it often enough that I don't even bat an eye. Nov 24, 2014 at 21:21
  • 2
    "I speak English" does sound better than "I talk English" – I'll grant you that. However, baby talk is not English. A search on Google books shows many more hits for "talk baby talk" than "speak baby talk". (Perhaps that's partly because much baby talk is uttered as gibberish as opposed to conversation? I'm not sure.) Also, most books and dictionaries don't seem to hyphenate the term.
    – J.R.
    Nov 24, 2014 at 22:28
  • 3
    There is a difference between "grammatical" and "commonly used". There is absolutely nothing ungrammatical here. Nov 24, 2014 at 22:46

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