Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Babbling Babies

Today is a very exciting day for my class because, for the first time in 5 weeks, the class is actually going to hear some Child Speech. This in a class named Children's Speech. We've been doing linguistics review and lots of theory and some hearing. Now, finally we get to babies actually saying something. One of the first things babies do is babble, and so I'm going to play several babbling videos in class.

However, not all babbling is the same, and so I've got to organize the parent-labeled babbling on YouTube into what linguists actually call babbling. Since I have to organize the links anyway, I thought I would stick them on the blog in case anyone is interested.

First up, newborn babies can't produce particularly linguistic sounds at all. Instead, they have sucking, spitting, crying, and squealing noises. These are often called vegetative sounds. Here's an example of those:

Little Samuel sounds a lot like a baby eagle.
Lots of ummm grunting?

Next up, we have baby Leo, who is moving from the vegetative sounds towards babbling. He's able to open and close his mouth in a sort of syllable like fashion, but the actual sounds that come out aren't exactly language sounds. Notice how he has little control of his tongue. He might have produced a baba sound if his tongue had stayed inside. You're getting there, little guy.

Almost there, Leo
Patrick, too, is almost to babbling, but not quite. He can't move, but look how alert and aware he is.

From here, we move to what is called canonical babbling. These are sounds like baba, dada, gigi, and the like. They are adult-like syllables with a full linguistic consonant and vowel. They almost always follow a consonant vowel (CV) pattern, but also VCVC.

The world's greatest hair baby
Here's little Kirsee. Notice how the mom freaks out when she comes out with mamamama. Mama is indeed a word for mothers in many places in the world that have no linguistic connection. The most common explanation for this is that babies babble the sounds "mama" very naturally all over the world. If you just open and close your mouth wide you end up with sounds like mama and baba. Parents seem to adopt these words as words for themselves.
And perfect canonical babbling

As the child gets older, they continue babbling, but the sounds become more varied with different consonants and vowels popping up. This is called variegated babbling.

These two little boys are moving into variegated babbling, though it's still kind of canonical. I crack up every time the one falls over at the end.

Natia's moving into full speech. Notice how she goes from full words into babbling and then back to words, particularly in the 1:00 and on section. Of course, the whole thing ends with the mother saying "ouch, you're hurting mommy." Why do kids always attack their parents while smiling?

And there you go. Speech production in Year One via YouTube. If any linguists would like to correct me on anything here, please do so. And thanks to the parents of the world who cannot help but put videos of their kids on the internet.


fairyhedgehog said...

I really enjoyed reading this post and looking at the videos.

pacatrue said...

Excellent! I think my students preferred listening to the babies rather than me as well.

McKoala said...

You must have had some fun digging all these out. Some cute kids in there!