Your baby is hanging out in her crib, babbling away at her mobile. It sounds like she's just kind of riffing in a random way, but oh no. You are totally underestimating your baby. She's doing serious business. A new study shows that babies actually learn how to babble -- slowly and methodically. First they start with syllables. Then they move on to phrases of different syllables. Dude, it's a skill that takes practice. Baby talk is hard work.
The study compared the way babies learn to talk with the way birds learn to sing, and it turns out they have a lot in common. But I think we're mostly interested in the babies, right?
Researcher Diana Lipkind says, "We discovered a previously unsuspected stage in human vocal development." Meaning even scientists didn't realize babies were actually practicing those syllables like concert master violinists and not just yammering away. We joke about baby talk, but it almost is a kind of language. Or anyway, it's an important first step toward learning how to really talk.
This make so much sense to me. I remember watching my son babble and feeling like there was something else going on there. When I spoke he would watch my mouth intently, and sometimes even mouth along with me. It was like he was realizing that there was pattern and meaning to those sounds coming out of my mouth. And then I caught him playing with inflections while he babbled.
It's just another example of how babies are always engaged in intensive learning under the radar. They look like they're just giggling at dust motes or flinging carrots to the floor just because they can. But really, they are little scientists hard at work. Kind of makes me want to pay closer attention the next time I catch a baby babbling.
Have you ever noticed patterns in your baby's babbling?
Image via Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr