Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Moo

If I were suddenly dropped into a foreign country I would be highly motivated to learn the language. I would focus first on the things I see around me every day, and on the services I want the most. How to get food. Where to go for my basic needs. How to interact with the inhabitants.

Zoe was 15 months old Monday, and suddenly began to talk. She had been signing a little before now - just the important words, like gorilla and elephant - but now she can tell us what the dog says, and the cat and the cow. And the duck. And the horse. And the giraffe.

Why on earth does she start with the animal sounds instead of actual words? Is a cow going to give her a bath and put her to bed? Is the dog going to fetch her some grapes from the fridge and let her pick them off the stem herself? Will the cat comfort her when she cries? Will the gorilla catch her at the bottom of the slide?

I think that this is pretty normal - other parents proudly brag about their babies imitating sheep and snakes and monkeys (WHY can't Zoe do the sheep yet? What's wrong with her?) - but it makes no sense to me. What is the evolutionary use of speaking to imaginary cows instead of actual mommies and daddies? Why speak Duck and not English?

Babies are weird.

2 comments:

  1. My guess would be that most of the animal sounds, at baby level, are monosyllables with strong vowel sounds, which are the sort of noises that come out of us anyhow when we start to realize we can control the noises coming out of us. When we get more practice, we notice we can use the little sounds to imitate the bigger sounds mom makes, correlate them with objects and actions and such, and start communicating our specific needs better. But you gotta start with "baaaa" and "moooooo" (and maaaa and daaaa).

    Of course, if Zoe is making perfectly-formed "kw-a-k"s from the get-go, maybe she's just weird. Wouldn't surprise me given her genetic heritage.

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  2. Way to ruin my flight of fancy with a dose of actual development science...

    But really, it's not that she idly makes moo sounds, but that she associates them with the cow picture and the cow word - it clearly is speech and not just experimentation.

    I think the animal sounds are probably more fun for her because we use a lot of pitch variation and acting in them. Plain old talking to communicate is for big, boring people like mom and dad...

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