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Languages Also "Grow Up" - 1

Spoken language is the method of human communication using phonetic sounds to express one's ideas each other. And children learn it naturally.
The first language Japanese babies learn is, of course, Japanese. If they are brought up in a foreign country, however, they will naturally start speaking the foreign language spoken there. Unlike adults like us, they do so without learning difficult grammars.

A Starting Point of Language

Babies give their first cries at the time of birth. This may not be called a language, since it is caused by a reflective breathing exercise. However, babies' first cries are made by aerial movement and tension of vocal cords; their mechanism is a prototype of the voice which leads to the language development. Furthermore, when babies who don't stop crying are soothed by being carried in our arms, they stop crying. The babies cry because they are surprised by a storm of delivery and separated from their mothers. Therefore this also leads to a language because they express what they feel in their mind.
The cry comes to have a clear meaning when the babies become one month old. That is to say, they cry when they are hungry, feel ache or pain. At the same time the babies start to learn how to cry by others' reactions around them. This has to do with the awakening of the symbolic function1 to express one's intangible feelings, which is one of the advanced mental functions of human beings.
By two months the babies make various kinds of cooing noises different from crying, such as "ah-ah," "oh-oh," and "kun-un, kun-un." Even Japanese babies make non-Japanese sounds. This is the so-called babble. This may be a language common to all human beings which was acquired in the process of human evolution.
Babies babble like a monologue when they are full after having lots of milk from their mothers, when they feel fine after having a bath, or when they are looking at wallpaper's design. That is called a pleasure sign because babbling is observed when they are happy or glad. Mother's talk, on the other hand, is called Motherese because it has unique pitch, rhythm and intonation. Motherese and pleasure sign interact with one another and babbling develops further, which shows various differences depending upon the babies' state of mind.


1:Symbolic function is one of the characters of human beings. This is a mental and psychological function to feel features or properties when people look at things or listen to them. For example, people can feel peace by looking at a pigeon; this is a symbolic function. Another example is that primates find a stick or a box a useful tool. Therefore, what we usually call functions show some aspects of such symbolic functions.

Kobayashi, Noboru (1981). "Kotoba mo Sodatsu-1" (written in Japanese). Tokyo: Child Research Net. Retrieved Oct. 8, 2004, from the World Wide Web http://www.crn.or.jp/LIBRARY/KOBY/MIRAI/cbs0115.html
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