What is babbling?
Babbling is an important ‘pre-linguistic skill’ and key marker of speech and language development. Child research studies classify a baby’s sound productions into two categories: involuntary (or, reflexive) sounds and voluntary sounds.
Infants produce involuntary sounds in the way of burps, coughs, grunts, and sighs within the first 2 months of life. Then, between 1 to 4 months, babies begin engaging in cooing and laughter – often while interacting with their caregiver. Between 4 and 6 months of age, babies continue to produce sweet squeals and coos, an initial stage referred to as ‘marginal babbling’ or, ‘pre-canonical babbling’.
At approximately 6 months of age, babies begin creating longer sounds with more variation. This next stage is referred to as ‘canonical babbling’ and is divided into reduplicated babbling and non-reduplicated babbling. Reduplicated babbling takes place when babies repeat the same syllable (e.g. “ba ba ba”). Non-reduplicated babbling refers to the production of different sound combinations and syllables (e.g. “maga baboba”).
At approximately 9 months of age, babies enter a stage referred to as ‘conversational babbling’ (or, jargon) which includes pauses, turn-taking, rhythm, and intonation. It closely resembles an adult conversation – a ‘pseudo-dialogue’, if you will, but without words! This stage often overlaps with a child’s first word.
What should I do if my child is not babbling?
There is evidence to suggest that canonical babbling (reduplicated and non-reduplicated) is an important precursor to later language development. If your baby is not producing age-appropriate babbling, then it may indicate a larger issue such as a hearing loss, speech and language delay, or learning disability. However, this is not always the case as some babies babble at later stages than expected. If you have any concerns, consult with your pediatrician and contact us.
Baby Talk Fact #1
Children often produce ‘raspberries’ between 4 to 6 months of age. Speech-language pathologists refer to raspberries as ‘bilabial trills’ or ‘bilabial fricative’.
Baby Talk Fact #2
Babies ALL OVER THE WORLD follow a similar pattern in babbling. And, by 12-16 months of age begin to shape these babbles into words of their native tongue.
Bass-Ringdahl, S. (2010). The relationship of audibility and the development of canonical babbling in young children with hearing. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 15 (3), 287-312.
Bauman-Waengler, J. (2008). Articulatory and Phonological Impairments A Clinical Focus – Third Edition. United States: Pearson Inc.
Iyer, S. & Oller, D. (2008). Prelinguistic vocal development in infants with typical hearing and infants with severe-to-profound hearing loss. The Volta Review, 108 (2), 115-138.
Oller, D., Eilers, R., Neal, A. R., & Schwartz, H. K. (1999). Precursors to speech in infancy: The prediction of speech and language disorders. Journal of Communication Disorders, 32 (222-245).