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Infant babbling and speech*

  • D. Kimbrough Oller (a1), Leslie A. Wieman (a1), William J. Doyle (a1) and Carol Ross (a1)

Previous scholars have claimed that the child's babbling (meaningless speech-like vocalizations) includes a random assortment of the speech sounds found in the languages of the world. Babbled sounds have been claimed to bear no relationship to the sounds of the child's later meaningful speech. The present research disputes the traditional position on babbling by showing that the phonetic content of babbled utterances exhibits many of the same preferences for certain kinds of phonetic elements and sequences that have been found in the production of meaningful speech by children in later stages of language development.

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The research reported here was supported by the Hearing and Language Contract NIH-NICHD-NO1-HD-3-2793, as well as by the Nursing Child Assessment Contract NIH-71-4174. The authors would like to acknowledge inspiration and assistance of Dick Oppfelt, Sylvia Phillips, Anne Woodle, Pat Kostanich, Howard Jensen and Rebecca Eilers. An earlier and less extensive version of this paper was presented at the Stanford Child Language Forum, 1974, and is printed in Stanford's Papers and reports on child language development, 8. 33–41 (but cf. fn. I, p. 5 below).

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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
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