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What is My Baby Saying?

Discover How Babies Learn Language

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mother closely talking to her baby

Your baby's vocal repertoire has been developing from birth. As it changes from little animal-like grunts and lip smacks to a banter in what sounds like some strange foreign language, you're probably wondering, What does it all mean? And how is this baby going to transition from gobbledygook to normal English?

Babbling babies don't just lack vocabulary - they're still physically unable to form the sounds of our language, or any language, for that matter. When your newborn squawks, she’s exercising her pipes and beginning to make the connection between her actions and what comes out of her mouth.

At about 4 to 6 months, the babbling begins - babies start stringing together sounds as their tongue and lips become adept. Sounds that are simplest to form come first – Ms and Ds, for example; it’s probably no coincidence that most babies say “Mamamama” and “Dadadada” first, and as you respond to what sounds like your name, your baby learns that "mamamama" means you! Some slightly more challenging early consonants include Bs, Gs, Hs, Ks, Ps and Ws. Your child may even repeat a sequence of two syllables.

Though it may seem like a language unto itself, babble doesn’t really mean anything. (Don't worry, your little one is learning how to get her point across: At about this same age, pointing becomes an effective way for her to make her demands known.) Still, by hearing herself babble, your baby learns that moving her tongue and mouth in a certain way will produce specific sounds. That’s why it’s so important for a child to hear well. If she can’t hear herself babble and learn the connection between, say, the position of her tongue behind her top teeth and the sound "th," her speech development could be impaired.

Next: Common First Words

 
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