Baby Language


I spent the day wondering whether it is indeed possible to understand Baby language. This thought came to me when I struggled to comprehend what my one year old nephew was babbling. Think about this. If parents or caregivers understood baby language, then there would be no need for all the unnecessary cries and sleepless nights. In fact, caregivers would generally have more time for themselves, because both parties can understand each other.

To understand baby language I propose some sort of translating device be created (small enough to be inserted into the ear) which interprets baby talk in the language understood by the listener. Ok, I know what you are thinking. I agree this sounds too farfetched but I think it is possible. The first step to understanding Baby language is to carry out research on babies-from different parts of the world (by this I mean different languages), both gender, and of course on babies who speak baby language. The truth is, for baby talk to be a language there has to be some stable characteristics found in this language (similar word sounds like ‘dada’) should be observed, and a level of communication should exist between babies . This concept reminded me of Rugrats. The babies understood and communicated with each other, even the older kids that could speak English like Angelica still understood and communicated in baby language; I thought this was awesome. I still wonder if that is how it works in baby world.

I did some research to be clear on the issue and I discovered studies have actually been carried out on baby talk and baby language mostly with emphasis on the linguistic aspect. One of such studies is a study by Ferguson (2011) who analyses Baby talk in six different languages. Unfortunately, this researcher found baby talk was not a universal language; he noticed that there were variations in baby language across six languages, making baby talk inconsistent. One of the reasons he gave for this was that baby talk was really an attempt for babies to replicate the sounds made by their caregivers, not an actual language. Apparently, the sounds created by babies are mere imitations depending on their oral development and their interpretation of sounds. Does this new evidence mean there is no such thing as Baby language?

I think at this point we need to be clear on what a language is. A language according to is a ‘body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation…’ So my argument is simple, if a community of babies communicate by imitating an existing language does that still count as a language? Most definitely yes. If sign language (which is a replica of a language) is a language, why can’t baby language be? A language is not necessarily an eccentric piece of words and systems; it might be an existing system that is expressed differently.

At this point I wonder if Babies who speak baby language should be referred to as lacking the ability to speak? I ask this because it is all too common to hear a parent say, ‘oh she is just 11 months old, she can’t speak yet’. Well I think that expression would undermine the concept of Baby language wont it? So, I propose that rather than saying babies can’t talk just because they can’t speak the language you understand, say ‘she talks but she is still learning how to speak my language’.

I am a strong believer in the existence of baby language and I still believe that a translating device can be created to translate baby talk. It would be a good idea if I just go ahead to make a design first and get an engineer or someone who has the technology to invent it so you guys would know I’m serious. I’l probably call it “The Baby Translator”.


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