Monday, June 23, 2008

A E I O U and sometimes Y (and sometimes L and W)

Griffin is a very vocal little guy. (Maybe sometime I will figure out how to take video footage off the camera and plunk it in the middle of a blog post so you can see him in action. Indulge me!) His sounds range from coos to shrieks of both joy and indignation to long blissful babbles. In addition to the expected screams and fussy cries, he also has a delightful laugh that can pull me out of a bad mood more quickly than Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

Given my interest in linguistics and language acquisition, it's no surprise that I'm paying close attention to his baby noises. For the past month or so, I could swear that I've heard actual words, like when he said "Well, hello!" to me. And then there have been a couple of "la"s and even a "hi."

Yes, I know he's not even five months old yet and he's not really talking. This must be the baby equivalent of putting an infinite number of monkeys in a room with an infinite number of typewriters (one of them will eventually pound out Hamlet): he makes enough different sound combinations frequently enough than some are bound to sound like real words.

But what this does show is that he's progressing beyond vowels--I do hear the odd consonant now and then, especially Ls, Ws, and Ys. If I were to take the time to dredge up some of my grad school notes, I suspect that I'd remember more about these phonemes known as "glides" or "semi-vowels" (they act like a vowel but sound like a consonant) and figure out why it makes sense that a toothless baby can produce them earlier than the other "real" consonants. But I'm too tired to do research right now! Anyone want to step in and take over?

By the way, I can't definitively say that any of Griffin's sounds seem French (like the four nasal vowels or the funky u) as opposed to English. But trust me, when he starts laughing smarmily like a mustachioed beret-wearing Frenchman with a baguette under his arm or intoning the foghorn-like phonemes in "un bon vin blanc," you'll be the first to know.

1 comment:

  1. A friend who is raising his son bilingually in Russian and English in the US reports that at 9.5 months, the baby babbles with lots of "mamamama"s and "dadadada"s, but also "dyadyadya," which sounds promisingly Russian!