The mamas & the papas in babies’ babbling


Pam ni’n dweuad Mam a Tad…

Sentence first

Babbling is a key stage in language acquisition. We can see where it fits into the overall progression in the following “very rough” table taken from Jean Aitchison’s The Articulate Mammal: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics:

 Language stage Beginning age
 Crying Birth
 Cooing 6 weeks
 Babbling 6 months
 Intonation patterns 8 months
 1-word utterances 1 year
 2-word utterances 18 months
 Word inflections 2 years
 Questions, negatives 2¼ years
 Rare or complex constructions 5 years
 Mature speech 10 years

After the cooing or gurgling phase from which it develops, babbling has a distinctly speech-like quality because it features “sounds that are chopped up rhythmically by oral articulations into syllable-like sequences”, as Mark Liberman describes it.

The sounds most associated with babbling are mama, papa, dada, nana and slight variations thereon — as for example in the well-known video of twin babies repeating dada (and dadadadada, etc.)…

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