This is referred to as Baby Language (or Parentese) in English, Bambinese in Italian and Parler Bebé in French. But in French and in Italian this concept stretches as far as developing a whole new set of made up words, used exclusively with and by kids, which can multiply unnecessarily the vocabulary the kid needs to learn.
- To take a nap in French baby language is « faire dodó » while in Italian is « fare la nanna »
- To eat in Italian is « mangiare » but for kids becomes « fare la pappa »
- In France almost every kid has a « dou dou » which refers to his favorite stuffed animal.
- In our family we have taken the habit of referring to the bowels as « poo-poo », in Italian that would be « cacca » and in French "caca".
- « Pipi », luckily, is the same in French, English and Italian. But while in English kid language it also refers to the genitals of the boy, the French kids call that « zizi », and in Italy that would be « pisellino » (literally little pea)
- When the kid is hurt, in Italian « si é fatto la bibi », but in French it’s « bobo »
- A kid’s nanny in Italian is often referred to as his « tata », while in France she’s the « nou nou »
Modern pedagogists suggest avoiding this artificial language after the age of 1, even in monolingual households, to facilitate the correct learning of proper vocabulary.
I was going to embrace this theory wholeheartedly, when I realized that the reflex to use these words was just too strong to modify my behavior: I did not realize how embedded certain terms are in our linguistic experiences! I grew up myself eating « pappa » and making « nanna » at night and getting « bibi » from time to time; I still use that expression to let my mum know I’m sick!
Milo for the moment seems to get it all, his favorite word being « Pappa !».
Luckily my little boy is blessed with a vigorous appetite, not only for food, but also for words!