Monday, April 2, 2012

the explosion of language

Sorry for my recent silence.  I was commenting to my brother the other day that I have many topics to write about, but I always forget to take or find corresponding photos, and everyone knows that blogs without photos are BOR-ING.  Anyway, enough with the niceties.  I have big things to discuss.

My baby turns one today!

How can it even be possible? 

That was her just a day or two after she was born. 

And that was her last week. 

The big change recently?  Aside from three (!) teeth within a week?  Language. 

Jeff and I are both exceptionally verbal people.  Our professions revolve around clear and concise communication.  We talk a lot at home.  I had no doubt in my mind that Vicki Jo would speak early and often.  She was never what one could describe as a "quiet" baby.  Lots of crying, cooing, babbling, fake-coughing, and just general noise.  She started stringing syllables together around six months.  They were nonsense, though.  There was no intent to communicate meaning through her babbles.

In the last month or two, however, mem-mem-mem-mem morphed into Ma-Ma-Ma, and da-da-da became Dad.  And she meant MaMa and Dad when she said it.  She had succeeded in identifying the two most important people in her life!  And what amazes me about looking back on it is that no one was calling me "mama."  This wasn't a super-familiar term to her.  Likewise, it wasn't like I called Jeff "dad."  Somehow she just knew that these were the words in our language for us. 

After that, our other family member was identified.  We spent a few days working on "dog," and now she pretty much has it:  duuk.  When I say "working on it," I mean just repeating the word back and forth between the two of us for hours at a time.  With some pointing interspersed. 

Sometime in there, she figured out her favorite word:  that.  As in "give me THAT (whatever she's pointing to)."  This development was prophesied by Jeff's family, who reported that he was slow to crawl and walk as a baby, preferring to talk and point to what he wanted and have it brought to him, rather than moving his body over to whatever object he fancied.  That is exactly what has been happening in our household.  It can be pretty sweet, too:  last night poor bub was experiencing a good deal of pain from the afore-mentioned teeth, and Jeff brought her into the kitchen where I was fixing dinner.  She looked and pointed at me, said "dat!", and gestured for me to hold her.  "That" was MaMa.

Along with "that" came "what."  Similar sounds, so it makes sense.  This one is still in the occasional realm.  She usually just asks when she wants to know what something is called. 

The latest rhyming pair to come about has been "up" and "stop."  "Up," with the arms lifted in the air, is the obvious cue for "pick me up!"  (Immediately followed by squirming, wriggling, and screaming to be put back down.)  "Stop" is generally when she is in pain.  That one has only come out a few times, so it's not in our regular repertoire yet.

So, seven words of which I'm quite confident she knows the meaning. 

One thing which I have never done as steadily as I wished has been reading to/with Vicki Jo.  We have lots of books, and we spend time playing with them, opening and shutting the covers.  But she has never been one to just sit there and watch while I read to her.  She wants the book.  She wants to chew it, practice turning pages. and throw it.  All of which makes me curious as to how she absorbed and connected all these words.

Language is a huge development.  The neural pathways Vicki Jo is laying now will be necessary for all her future education, formal and informal.  The fact that she is able to produce sounds, connect them with objects or emotions, and communicate wtih intent is enormously gratifying.  Now just to remember all this while she is pointing at my iPhone, saying "Dat!  Dat!  Dat! Dat!"  :)

1 comment:

David Reeves said...

That's awesome! If you want to read about some of the 'linguistics' facets of speech development, I recommend Stephen Pinker - maybe The Language Instinct?

As far as reading to Vicki, I wouldn't worry too much. At this stage, I think the primary benefit of reading together is mostly about parents just doing SOMETHING together with their baby. I'm pretty confident that you're doing that...

But definitely pepper in some board-books with her other toys. Like you said, just the tactile experience of touching, opening, and closing books is probably a great introduction to literacy.

It was great seeing you guys on Sunday. I was really impressed with how good VJ's motor skills with her hands and fingers is already! Tell her 'Happy Birthday' from us again today!