How Babble Becomes Words

Between 18 months and 6 years, children learn an average of 9 new words a day! How did they get to that point?

By 7-10 months, babies begin to understand the meaning of individual words. These first words are usually labels for familiar people and objects: Mommy, Daddy, dog, ball. When caretakers share new meanings with babies, pointing to objects to make the connection between a word and the object, babies’ lists of understood words increase rapidly.

Studies have shown that babies as young as 10 months old will remember words taught once or twice in this way, and will do so for weeks or months. This capability for rapid learning is called “fast mapping.” Researchers believe it is first used by babies in learning language but is quickly applied to other kinds of conceptual learning.

While many babies do not begin to say full words until they are 12 months or older, most begin to say a few approximations of full words in the second half of the first year.

Again, these first words are usually labeled for the things and people they know best: “Mama,” “Dada,” “do” for dog, or “ba” for ball. Babies are also capable, however, of expressing more complex observations and comments with simple words: “gone!” “uh-oh!” “more!” and “bye-bye!”

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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