Babies and the Meaning of Words

What does your baby think when you coo “Does baybee want his teddii?” 

A common idea is that babies discover the combination of sounds, constants, vowels, and intonation. There is as difference between understanding the words and just noticing the sounds.Around their first birthday, a baby may start to understand the meaning behind the sounds.

But a 6-to 9 month-old baby may be thinking something like “Yes, I want my teddy?” 

Babies as young as 6 months may be able to understand the meaning of some words. Previously, it was thought that babies could understand words like their own name, mum, and dad. But research suggests that babies can understand words like apple and mouth. These words come in different shapes, colours, and forms. Pictures were shown to babies and their parents named a picture. Babies could direct their gaze to the picture, suggesting that they understood the spoken words.

Babies in this age group, are not talking, pointing, or walking around. But it appears they are trying to understand the world, and understanding and learning the sound structure are not two separate processes. Instead, learning words and the sound structure of spoken language go hand in hand.

You may not get a verbal response back, or your baby may not point to the things you are talking about. Nevertheless, your baby may “understand a bit of what you’re saying,” Swingley said. The more we engage and talk to our babies, the more sounds and words, they can use to continue to learn about language and the world.

Research: Elika Bergelson and Daniel Swingley At 6–9 months, human infants know the meanings of many common nouns. Go here to read the abstract.Photo:

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