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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: You might like to look at a book about language acquisition. I recommend:

Clark, Eve. 2009. First Language Acqusition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Very small babies usually start to babble with open vowels and labial consonants, because their mouths have not get learnt to do much. As they get older, they babble with a wider range of sounds, including ones not used in the languages being spoken around them. By the age of 6 months (or sooner), there are differences between the babble of babies depending on what language(s) they are exposed to.

I do not know what you mean by 'further proof'. The notion of innateness and of Universal Grammar is a controversial one, and the discussion around it is complex.


Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
Date: 01-Nov-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    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (31-Oct-2012)
  4. Re: Greek Babbling    James L Fidelholtz     (01-Nov-2012)

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