First Word

Well, not really.  But dear little B.T. is well into his baby-babble stage, and he’s making multisyllabic sounds.  His “first word” was something like [a’ʕɯ]¹ or possibly [a’ʢɯ]² (to my english-speaking ears, it’s hard to differentiate a voiced pharyngeal fricative and a voiced epiglottal fricative), which we transliterate as /a’gu/.  It is, so far as I know, a nonsense word.  Certainly not the “mama” or “dada” we’re looking for, not yet.

What I find interesting, from a linguistic perspective, is which sounds he is choosing to make.  Obviously, vowels are first, and easiest.  He specialises in [a], [u], and [i], primarily (that’s, “ah”, “ooh”, and “ee”), although I think the [u] is actually usually [ɯ] because he hasn’t really learned to round his lips at the same time as making a sound.  But it’s even more curious that his first consonant is a sound that doesn’t appear in English natively at all.  Again, I’m guessing it’s because of ease of pronunciation.  Making a voiced radical fricative involves little more than vibrating your vocal chords while forcing air through it. (Maybe it’s a little more complex than that.  The sound he makes is like a rolling-g sound.)

In other news, I am well aware of the fact that attempting to analyze the phonemes my baby is sounding out classifies me as a special kind of nerd.



¹The funny-looking stuff is from the IPA.  That’s basically a linguistic nerd alphabet.

²Clearly I learned how to do footnotes this week.