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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Subject: Greek Babbling
Question: When infants begin babbling, the first sounds after vowels are usually
the stops. First of those are the labials. Because they are very
productive in world languages, [b], [p], and [d] are usually the first. In
Greek, [b] and [d] are infrequent phones. In fact, there are no letters
for these phones; instead, combinations are made: μπ for [b] and ντ
for [d]. Does this mean, then, that Greek babies, when they begin
babbling, do not begin with the sounds [b] and [d]? And if they do, is
that just further proof that much of language acquisition is innate and
there is some sort of Universal Grammar?

Reply: In Modern Greek, as you say, the voiced stops [b d] are infrequent. But so far as I know (I am no expert on child language) the claim is that labial stops tend to be some of the first consonants produced by children – not voiced labial stops in particular. Modern Greek surely does have plenty of labial stops, [p], and also [m] if nasal consonants are counted as "stops" (and in connexion with child speech they surely ought to be, they are also produced early).

Geoffrey Sampson

Reply From: Geoffrey Richard Sampson      click here to access email
Date: 31-Oct-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Greek Babbling    Madalena Cruz-Ferreira     (31-Oct-2012)
  2. Re: Greek Babbling    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (31-Oct-2012)
  3. Re: Greek Babbling    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (01-Nov-2012)
  4. Re: Greek Babbling    James L Fidelholtz     (01-Nov-2012)

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