In my mother tongue, there is a word that precisely talks about 'baby's language', which does not have proper pronunciations.

'R' becomes 'L' in almost all cases.

Is there any term that describes 'baby's language' or it's called 'baby's language' only?

I know 'baby talk'. But I think it's different. There, you use different words (say: boo-boo for describing a wound). Here, I'm using the same word but Indian babies replace 'R' with 'L' as in 'car' which becomes 'KAAL'. To clarify this further, baby talk is what 'you talk' with babies, I'm searching for the term in which a 'baby talks' with you!

Again, I'm concerned about what do we call the pronunciation, intonation, accent or style the way babies pronounce.

  • 3
    Raising twins, I noticed that phenomenon, to differing degrees, and manifesting differently, in both my children. One of my children, for a while, could not say "L", so "glass" came out as "gyass", and "nice lady" as "nice nady". In an adult, it's called a speech defect, but of course it's not a "defect" in a child, just a difficulty in learning some sounds. How long the difficulty lasts determines whether we call it a defect (or disability). Anyway, this is more a question about the branch of linguistics dealing with language acquisition. I suggest you focus your research there. Commented May 13, 2015 at 6:52
  • You drew my attention on the word 'adults' there. It creates ambiguity. Removed! Thanks. Now, we are talking about babies' natural way of pronouncing words only. :)
    – Maulik V
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 6:56
  • To continue... If the condition persists, the medical term is a speech pathology and the educational term is a (speech) learning disability. the child would be referred to a speech pathologist for speech therapy. They would also test the child's hearing, to see whether that might be contributing to the speech problem. Commented May 13, 2015 at 9:41
  • There is no one natural way for babies to pronounce words. They have to be taught the phonemes of the language. Some children pick them up faster than others, or have difficulty with different sounds. Commented May 13, 2015 at 9:44
  • 4
    I still think "baby talk" is the term you want. If an adult says, "I wuv you", either they have a speech defect, or they are using baby talk. We do use the phrase baby talk to refer to special words like "boo-boo," but we also use the same phrase to describe the way children pronounce things differently.
    – Keiki
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 15:19

4 Answers 4


I think baby talk is the common and proper term. It refers to the words or sounds a baby makes when it's learning to talk. In addition, it also refers to special language adults sometimes use to talk to babies.

We also can call it babble. We can use babble both as a noun and a verb.

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    I would disagree with babble... the only time I hear "babble" used is to refer to the non-word sounds that pre-verbal infants make.
    – Catija
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 1:15

Just fun note on baby-talk. Scientists use the words child-directed speech for the way in which parents or adults alliterate, rhyme, repeat, and use rhythm and varied pitch when they speak with babies. That is how babies learn to speak and parents that are bi-lingual will have children that are bi-lingual as long as both languages are spoken to the baby. Some families that are let's say Filipino-Americans, for example, will always use English in a formal context and Tagalog at home. The baby will learn both languages this way.

Babbling is specifically an infant's repetition of certain syllables, such as ba-ba-ba, which begins when babies are 6-9 months old. In the first few months of the 2nd year, spoken vocabulary increases at about 1 word per week. When a baby uses a word like Mama or Dada, it's called a "holophrase" -a single word that expresses an entire thought. This is because babies understand about 10 times more words than they can say. Around 21 months is a "naming explosion" in which they know twice as many words. It's called "Naming" because the words they know are usually nouns.

By the age of 5 months, the baby already has a preference for the accents and rhythms of their own culture, so there's not really a global word for the specific area of child language development that you mention. I don't about all cultures but some probably do have a word for it, as you mentioned. The lack of proper pronunciations is simply a process of development and is subjective to the child. All young children master basic grammar according to a schedule, this is called "universal grammar."

Dysfluencies in language – such as stuttering or repeating words or starting sentences over – may be a part of typical speech development as toddlers learn to produce these sounds. A child who may be difficult to understand when they first learn to string words into sentences will usually develop enough articulation over time to be understood. If they don’t, they may have an "articulation delay" or an "articulation disorder."

I hope you might find at least a tidbit of good information in here somewhere.


If you are referring to the language that babies use before they learn REAL language, when they make funny sounds like "boo boo coo coo yoo yoo" or anything with no real meaning, we don't have a noun for that, but a verb, which is "to babble". This same word is used for adults who speak without really making any sense.

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    Babbling is a noun for to babble
    – user6951
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 15:39

(Native American English speaker here.)

I think "baby talk" is the right term even though people most often say "baby talk" in reference to the way adults talk to babies.* I understand the conceit of "baby talk" to be the baby's own language. You say "boo-boo" for a wound because you are pretending to speak in baby talk. For the same reason, you talk in a higher voice than normal, slow down, use glissandos, etc., because you are imitating the sounds of babies.

Part of the conceit is that babies know very few words, or know only "natural" words like interjections. That's why you use only the most elementary vocabulary when talking to babies. Notice that the phrase "baby talk" is itself baby talk. A more adult way to say it would be "baby language" or "baby-ese". Saying "talk" in place of "language" substitutes an elementary word, used extremely broadly as people with very small vocabularies must, in place of a more-appropriate adult word. Notice how condescending it would be to refer to a normal spoken language the same way: saying "Eskimo talk" instead of "Inuktitut" would suggest that its speakers are intellectually on the level of babies.

*The Wikipedia article summarizes research on how adults talk to babies. It's not a good guide to the ordinary meaning of the term "baby talk". See "Wikipedia is not a dictionary" for more information about this.

  • Actually, the higher, slower speech isn't necessarily to mimic babies, it's actually very beneficial in helping them learn language. There are lots of studies about it out there.
    – Catija
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 2:11
  • @Catija Indeed nature works in extraordinary ways: we blend spoken language with an imitation of the baby, and the baby thereby learns to imitate language. (This doesn't work with my cat.) But we don't need to know about that in order to understand that "baby talk" is a conceit for the "talk" of babies—even though adults imitate it, researchers study the adults' speech and its effects, and people summarize that research on Wikipedia—ultimately causing confusion for ESL learners. :)
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 3:37
  • @BenKovitz not cats, but it works with many other animals though.
    – JDługosz
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 15:35

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