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.

5 thoughts on “First Word

  1. I can’t say that I ever followed the baby sounds, but it is interesting when you think about it. (I do remember that they both said dada before mama). I found out that ‘r’ is the last sound to develop. I only know that because my older son’s speech therapy teacher told me so 🙂

    • I’ve heard that before, about “dada” before “mama”, though I have heard of some who do “mama” first. I do think it’s interesting to follow the sounds as they learn to make them. I’m curious why b.T. seems to find some sounds (like this rolling, gurgling “g”) easier to make than others, or why these are among his first “sounds”.

  2. Pingback: Weekend Assignment: Back to School « The Undiscovered Author

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