Languages Also "Grow Up" - 2

From Babbling to Sentences

Around five months babies not only repeat babbling responding to their mothers' talk but also utter their own voices and babble responding to them. This is the beginning of self-study and self-learning.
Six months babies start to pay attention to, and imitate, what others say. This is the so-called imitation phase. There is a language imitation program just like a program to imitate others' expression. The question is, however, whether they are really imitating others. There is a theory that neurological vocal mechanism genetically decided in advance, combined with the mental program in the brain, pulls out the words by sticking what others are saying.
Ten months babies combine various sounds and make unique voices as if they were speaking. It sounds as if birds are humming, which is called jargon. One-year-old babies start using their lips and say "mama," "papa," and so on. Many of these words are nouns and exclamations. Language ability develops along with the emotional development.
The babies begin to acquire new languages one after another at one year old and onwards. Three-year-olds master about 800 words. As the number of words increases, they start to learn sentences by combining words. Two-year-olds make three-word sentences; three-year-olds make four-word sentences and five-year-olds make five-word sentences. In this way they learn how to combine words and make sentences.

Languages Are Pulled Out

However, there are many unknown factors in the mechanism of language development. As was mentioned earlier, there are two confronting theories about language development at present.
The first mechanism of language development is the development by learning from, and imitating mothers and other people. The second mechanism is that the language program controlled by the genes acquired in the evolution process is incorporated in the babies' brains in advance, which is released when stimulated by external factors; that is to say, words are pulled out by sticking words spoken outside. Those genes have been discovered recently. Once babies start talking, their language ability develops very rapidly like a stepladder.
However, what is language? It is a symbol used instead of an actual object in order to communicate a concept to others. That includes, of course, letters, body language and Braille used by the visually and orally impaired. Gestures and pictures are special kinds of symbols for communication.
Babies' language is an expression of the symbolic function which is indispensable for an advanced civilization of human beings. Languages develop together with the 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
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