A month ago, I wrote wondering if Baby Girl had said her first word. She had said “aw duh” (all done) after her lunch, with the sign language, which we have used repeatedly since we started weaning 6 months ago.
I’m still not 100% sure this was actually a word. More likely her repeating the sounds the Other Half was making. However, there has been more & more incidents of this in the last week or so. And I’m starting to wonder… Is Baby Girl trying to speak?Yesterday, while I was in the loo, my friends said Baby Girl said something sounding an awful lot like, ‘Hello’.
While playing ‘Where’s Sophie [the Giraffe]’ on Monday, the OH said she was saying ‘ee, ee’ whenever she found Sophie.
Baby Girl’s been making the ‘mama’ & ‘dada’ sounds for months & months now, as all babies do. But there’s been a few times she’s said ‘mama’ & I’ve looked up to find her looking directly at me as if waiting for me to take notice. Or she’s crawled out of the living room saying, ‘mama’ when I’ve popped through to another room, as if asking where I’ve gone.
Last night, in the highchair while I prepared her dinner, she dropped the pack of wipes on the floor three times & each time said, ‘oh dee’ (oh dear) in the same intonation I use when she throws her food on the floor. This morning, the OH dropped something in the loo & growled, frustrated; right on cue Baby Girl squeaked, ‘oh dee’.
This sounds to me like she’s starting to piece together context with sounds/words.
If you ask Baby Girl, ‘Where’s Daddy?,’ she points at the OH; ‘Where’s Sophie/Bunny/Kitten,’ she finds Sophie, Bunny or Kitten; ask her where The Night Garden is & she looks at the TV. So she has very clearly made a huge leap in language acquisition already over the last month purely in the fact she can understand so much more. It’s just the engaging brain to mouth that’s the final hurdle.
A hurdle we’re waiting for with great anticipation.
But all this first word business isn’t quite what I expected. The way people say, ‘Your first word was Bye Bye,’ or how they show it films (let’s be honest, by that I mean how they show it in Friends), I always assumed it was obvious when a baby said their first word; that Eurika! moment, like they cross a proverbial barrier from babyhood into childhood. But so far, it doesn’t seem to be. ‘aw duh’ has only made one other appearance & the other examples above are few & far between.
Which leads me to think child language acquisition is more gradual than we’re led to believe. (Which as I studied linguistics at University, including a brief module on child language acquisition, I probably should have put two & two together myself!)
A friend of mine is a stay at home dad working on his PHD thesis in child language acquisition. He & his son popped over this morning for tea, biscuits, raisins & apple slices & we ended up discussing this exact topic. He said there is also a theory questioning what is language; if a baby says ‘fwodya’ but in the perfectly correct intonation as ‘bye bye’, waving when stood at the door, is that language acquisition? Are they actually saying ‘bye bye’ in their own way? Or is it only language if they pronounce the correct sounds, in the correct context, with the correct intonation with apparent intent? And in that case, the childhood milestone of ‘first word’ may not be as black & white as we’ve always thought; it’s certainly not a Eurika! moment.
It’s a process that occurs over time. One which Leap 7 paved the way for as Baby Girl now has the ability to understand a sequence of events causes x to happen; ‘by saying ‘aw duh’ I show Mama I’m finished & she takes the bib off’ or ‘by saying ‘hello’ everyone smiles at me’.
And this makes sense to me; the pieces of the puzzle slowly coming together in Baby Girl’s mind. Walking doesn’t happen over night (although I’m told for some it does). She sat up, then crawled, then pulled herself up, then walked around the furniture holding on & now will walk across a room with her walker or holding on to our hands; letting go of one when feeling brave. It’s a slow, steady process as she figures out what she needs to do to put one foot in front of the other on her own & build her confidence. Talking, I assume, is exactly the same.
But despite this new found understanding, it would be amazing to have that Eurika! moment…