Baby talk

Introduction

According to the definition given in the article East Cree Baby Talk, Jones defines baby talk as the register spoken by adults and older children when addressing a young child who is just learning to speak a language. However, other scholars have defined the term as any language that is spoken by infants, mostly between the age of six months and three years. Because of its definition, baby talk is understandably mostly common only between parents and their children, as well as between children and their caretakers. It is also notable that the baby talks are also limited to a small and narrow number of vocabulary and word choices. Another important facet of baby talk is that it uses fragmented phrases and incomplete sentence that can nonetheless, be understood by the kids. Because of the rising importance of baby talk to the society, the relevance of understanding baby talk has continued to gain significance. The aim of this research report is to document findings of a minor research carried out to find out the phonological, morphological and syntactic analysis of baby talk words. From the onset, it is the precinct of this report that, though they may seem to have no meaning, if understood as should be, baby talk can be noted to have a pattern and flow with meaningful syntactical, morphological and phonological constructs, though not in the way they were understood in adult context.

Data

In order to achieve the said objective, the research firstly gathers data from a child below the age of four years of age (William and Archibald, 2011). Precisely, the data was gathered from a one year-old girl, whose father and mother were both American-Americans born and bred in in Hollywood, California and Hoboken, New Jersey respectively. For the three years since she was born, the child has been raised up in two places, which are at her former home in Hoboken, NJ where she was born, until eleven months later, when her parents moved to Hollywood. Since the parents were both planning to work in California for the foreseeable future, the child had been left at home during the day with a nanny, who was Texan, but whose life had been spent mostly serving as house help in the homes in New York. The house help was, fluent and without an accent in her English language, and she had a good command of the language. Being the first child, the respondent for this research had no siblings from whom to learn language from, and she did not interact with many outsiders either. As such, the language that has been chosen for the research is American English.

The words gathered from the child were recorded, noted and sorted into different semantic categories in order to allow for further analysis later in the research. Precisely, the data was sorted into the six categories of body parts and function, basic qualities, kin terms and nicknames, familiar objects and creatures, familiar actions, exclamations and noises. The material that make up baby talk include material from three different sources, which include the intoned and paralinguistic content that have been observed to occur under the normal conversations and in other baby talks. Secondly, the content comes from the words, morphemes as well as constructions that have been modified by the users from normal language. Lastly, the material also comes from the lexical content that is only found within baby talk. Of these three sets of materials, the intoned features are thought of by many scholars as the most significant component of baby talk across different language levels. However, there has as per yet been very little research regarding the semantic distinction of baby talk material, which is why discussing it becomes a key challenge. The semantic categories of words included Body parts and functions, Basic qualities, Kin terms and nicknames, Familiar objects and creatures, Familiar actions, Exclamations, and Noises. The words studied were mother, father, baby, food, sleep, urination, nice, dirty, little, dog, cat, and bird. The words fall into the said categories as shown in the table 1 below.

Table 1

Category
Body parts and functions
Basic qualities Nice Dirty Little
Kin terms and nick names Mother Father Baby
Familiar objects and creatures Dog Cat bird
Familiar actions Sleep Urination Foods
Exclamations
Noises

 

Morphological and phonological analysis

According to the reading the Sounds of language by Dobrovolsky and Katamba (2012), one common phonological feature is the labial emphatics that are observed in the English-speaking group of children. The second common feature is the predominance of reduplication whereas this is used in whole words as well as in parts of words. The third phonological feature is the canonical form of baby talk that is observed with babies that are raised by the English speaking community, but also babies that are raised by people speaking other languages. One of the most obvious ones includes the use of the monosyllable, which most of the times begins and end in the same syllable.

Dobrovolsky and Katamba (2012) also eplxain that another important consideration is the grammatical aspect of the words and the phrases used in the baby talk world, which is very set apart from the reduplication and the canonical forms that have already been discussed. Various elements of grammar that should be considered in this discussion exist, which include the use of striking features as well as the use of inflectional suffixes. Looking at the semantics that have been used in most baby talk words and phrases, one finds that the vocabulary functions usually have a sense of baby talk tenancy, with some words being common in all baby talks. However, as shown in table 1 above, the use of vocabulary falls mostly in the category of animals, body parts, food, kin and nick names as well as exclamations, although the latter two are usually not as dominant.

The acquisition model must be causaland concrete. Explanation of language acquisition is not complete with a mere description of child language, no matter how accurate or insightful, without an explicit account of the mechanism responsible for how language develops over time, the learning function L. It is often claimed in the literature that children just ‘pick up’ their language, or that children’s linguistic competence is identical to adults. Such statements, if devoid of a serious effort at some learning-theoretic account ofhowthis is achieved, reveal irresponsibility rather than ignorance.

Lenneberg also pointed out in The study of Language and Language Acquisition that the model must also be correct. Given reasonable assumptions about the linguistic data, the duration of learning, the learner’s cognitive and computational capacities, and so on, the model must be able to attain the terminal state of linguistic knowledge ST comparable to that of a normal human learner. The correctness of the model must be confirmed by mathematical proof, computer simulation, or other forms of rigorous demonstration. This requirement has traditionally been referred to as the learnability condition, which unfortunately carries some misleading connotations. For example, the influential Gold (1967) paradigm of identification in the limit requires that the learner converge onto the ‘target’ grammar in the linguistic environment. However, this position has little empirical content.

There are words in baby talk that are considered to be modified from the normal to the special lexicon components that are required in order to make any sense. However, the baby talks and baby talk words that have been so far listed comprise of various consonants, vowels as well as nasals in a way that gives only a small selection of vowel sounds. In addition, researchers thought that it would be impossible to find words that are necessary in ordinary langue to be used in baby talks, especially if they have complex consonant sounds. The grammar and the nasals used by most baby talks can be classified into four unique distinctions which are used by children in the English language all over mainstream America.

Further analysis reveals that most baby talk words are usually characteristically one-vocable utterances, which imply that the words are usually monoremes. These are words that are prevalently used by children aged below three years, the age cap that is suggested to be best suitable for linguistic development in children. However, as the child continues to grow and develop their ability to speak, they enter the two-vocabe category of baby talk, which is characterized by the emergence of short sentences and the formation of reduplication, primitive affixes and inferents. Other researchers also include the emergence of words that relate to toys, more animals, more food, as well as other related nouns.

Finally, it is also important to understand why there is a difference between girls and boys in learning the language. The research on this subject has been done using much older children as well as young adults. It has been observed that men use minimal paralinguistic responses in their conversations compared to women. Conversely, Women use a lot of paralinguistic features such as yeah and ‘mhm’ when communicating (Ottenheimer 37). The use of questions in language varies considerably among women and men because men ask questions so as to obtain information whereas women use rhetorical questions frequently so as to find attention. The use of question tags in women’s language depicts a collaborative approach of using language (Ardener 313). Women take a lot of turns in their conversions while men center on their opinions by keeping quiet. Women use language to disclose their problems whereas men display tendencies of non-disclosures. For women, language helps them to share problems and seek sympathy. Therefore, language use among women and men differs significantly (Thomson 413).

Gender affects language use in various cultures of the world. For instance in Sumeria, the women use a different language, Emesal, which is different from the main language, Emegir, used by all genders (Ahearn 266). The language used by Sumerian has a unique vocabulary and involves the religious practices of Sumerian women. Similarly, the Australian language Yanyuwa, uses different dialects to the genders. Evidence suggests that the language use in Greek differs among women and women. In India, The Sanskirt language differentiates the vocabularies that are used by the genders (Managnaro 87).

Conclusion

In conclusion, it has been observed that the baby talk is a growing field of interest among linguistics. The relevance of baby talk among children is one that has continued to elicit the need for further studies on the subject. From the present discussion, one-year-old child has been considered for the study, and the common words observed to be uttered by the child have been listed. It is noted with interest that the child uses one-vocab language, but is expected to start using two-vocab language later as she continues to grow. However, other scholars have defined the term as any language that is spoken by infants, mostly between the age of six months and three years. Because of its definition, baby talk is understandably mostly common only between parents and their children, as well as between children and their caretakers. It is also notable that the baby talks are also limited to a small and narrow number of vocabulary and word choices. Another important facet of baby talk is that it uses fragmented phrases and incomplete sentence that can nonetheless, be understood by the kids. Because of the rising importance of baby talk to the society, the relevance of understanding baby talk has continued to gain significance.