Babbling is a form of communication found in early primary language acquisition in which an infant creates a variety of word sounds without inherent meaning. This time period usually follows cooing and demonstrates the infant’s development as he or she begins to form more precise word sounds. There are essentially two types of babbling: reduplicative, in which the infant makes the same sound repeatedly, and variegated, in which the sounds change during a single babbled string. This time period for an infant is typically followed by development of words with particular meanings as language acquisition continues.
Though the full purpose of babbling may be somewhat debatable, most linguists feel it is used by infants as a way to practice and develop language. An infant typically begins to babble at about 12 months, sometimes sooner and sometimes later. This follows the cooing phase that many infants go through, in which they make audible sounds that often consist primarily of vowel sounds and do not necessarily correspond to sounds used to construct words. When a child begins babbling, however, the sounds evolve and include consonants and other sounds used in creating spoken language.
There are basically two major types of babbling, which are divided and based on the types of sounds an infant makes. The reduplicative form occurs when an infant makes a single sound that is repeated such as “da-da-da-da” or “la-la-la-la-la,” often in shorts bursts of sound; many early spoken words such as “mama” and “dada” are built upon the ease with which infants can make these sounds. Variegated babbling occurs when an infant produces simple sounds that are not based on repetition such as “la-do-ma-ga-ba.” While these sounds may rhyme or seem similar, this form demonstrates that an infant is working on using different word sounds.
Babbling is an important phase of language development as infants demonstrate early understanding of certain linguistic concepts. During babbling, infants often show different types of inflection while speaking, raising the pitch and volume of their voices throughout the string of sounds. Infants may also learn and demonstrate “turn-taking” during this phase of development, which means that parents and others should interact with infants as they babble to demonstrate how language is used in conversation. After this stage in development, an infant often begins to form individual words, usually short words like “up” or “please,” and a child is likely to babble less and use formal words more often as he or she develops.