Thursday, July 26, 2007

Language Development in Babies

It's fun watching for the subtleties of learning. I was reading this article and got to thinking about the recent verbal advances we've seen in our son.

James McClelland, a psychology professor at Stanford University, developed "a computer program that learns to decode sounds from different languages in the same way that a baby does [which] helps to shed new light on how people learn to talk."

He goes on to say that "the debate in language acquisition is around the question of how much specific information about language is hard-wired into the brain of the infant and how much of the knowledge that infants acquire about language is something that can be explained by relatively general purpose learning systems."

As a psych student, I must admit I've been watching my son's language development with curiosity. Were the theories about innate lingquistic instincts in babies legitimate? My son was stringing sounds together like "dadadadadadada" or "mamamamamamama" for a while, though he hadn't obviously associated meaning with them until this moment. Lately, his vowel sounds have obviously changed and we can sense a new stage in language. He was saying "wow" for about a week, which was fun because we'd say "wow," then he'd say "wow," and so on. He's over "wow," but he's making other fun sounds, including what we think is an attempt to say "daisy duck," the name we've given his rubber duckie, though it sounds like "day duh" to the untrained ear ;-)

In the end, it's interesting that researchers are beginning to learn about language development from babies, though it doesn't take away from the amazing feat that this little learning marvels accomplish on a daily basis. If I did anywhere near as much as him every day, I'd need a lot of naps, too.