Crying babies once required vocalization for calming down, but the modern world has found a quicker method. Better be careful not to burn the baby.
The most interesting and important contribution in Dean Falk‘s new book Finding Our Tongues: Mothers, Infants, and the Origins of Language is its discussion of pre-verbal vocalizations that go on between mother and infant during the first year. Thanks to her, I have a deeper appreciation of the complexity of vocalization. It is not just a matter of somehow increasing the human tendency to make noises.
Meanwhile, concerning another post, a visitor to the blog last week (“Uzza”) commented, “You seem to imply a progression, babbling --> words -->language, but since a language must exist as input for babbling, the patterned repetition of phonemes, that would be a circular argument.” I confess to having been startled by this comment as I had never before seen it put so starkly that babbling depends on the prior existence of language. I think Falk would be surprised as well since that argument, if successful, would send her back to the drawing boards. However, thanks to Falk I have a better sense of what’s wrong with Uzza’s bold position.