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Babbling and Early Words

Mutual Imitation Within Mother-child Interaction

In 1989 Metchthild and Hanus Papoušsek were among the first researchers to point out that more than 50 percent of two- to five-month-olds' noncrying vocalizations are either infant imitations of mothers' previous vocalizations or mothers' imitations of infants' previous vocalizations. They suggested that this mutual vocal matching mechanism relates to the emotional regulation of communication in the beginning of life. Joanna Blake and Bénédicte de Boysson-Bardies found in 1992 that infants tend to vocalize more while manipulating small objects and especially when adults are present. Edy Veneziano in 1988 analyzed vocal turn taking in pairs of nine- to seventeen- month-old babies and their mothers. She reported that, as children advance toward conventional language, mothers' imitations of what babies say becomes selective. Mothers imitate only those infant vocalizations resembling conventional words, thus signaling to the child what constitutes a linguistic symbol with meaning.

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 1Babbling and Early Words - The Form Of Infants' Pre-speech Vocalizations, Stages In The Development Of Pre-speech Vocalizations