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Babbling Stage in Babies: Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:01 Definition
  • 1:03 Purpose of Babbling
  • 1:53 How to Help Them Along
  • 2:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Foley

Stephanie has a BA & MA iin psychology and has taught for 13 years.

This lesson will define the phase of speech learning in infants called 'babbling.' We'll also discuss the purpose of this cute stage, and how caregivers can help in the process.

Definition

'Blah, blah, la, la.' To an adult, these babbling noises are meaningless, but to an infant they are the beginnings of speech. These sounds are practice for what will eventually become words, phrases, and sentences full of meaning, thought, and emotion.

Babbling is the term for the second stage of speech development after the newborn stage of crying. Anyone who has been around a newborn knows they cry when they're hungry, cold, sick, or in need of changing. Some cry because they just want to be held. Babbling is the next step, when an infant aged about five months to one and a half years begins to make individual sounds like 'mamama' and 'bababa.'

Babblers make these easy sounds because they do not have teeth, which are necessary for making 'th' and 'sh' sounds. At this stage, babblers are also just starting to control their facial and tongue muscles. Ever wonder why the word for 'mother' in most language begins with the 'ma' sounds? Because it is one of the easiest sounds for babies to produce, and it is a pretty important word.

Purpose of Babbling

So what is the purpose of babbling? Babblers make eye contact while babbling and begin to assert their intentions and emotions. A frustrated 'baba' sound might mean 'I want my bottle NOW. I am starving.' They laugh and smile while babbling because something delights them. They pause and wait for their listeners to talk with them and engage them further. This rewards the babies' efforts because someone is listening to them, which makes them more likely to babble. They are also rewarded by the joy they sense from their mothers' facial expressions and behavior when they say 'mama' for the first time, a first word for most babies.

Babblers use their new vocal skills to become social members of their families. By their first birthdays, they babble only in the sounds of their native language. For example, Japanese babies will no longer make 'lala' sounds because it does not exist in Japanese.

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