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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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If you're interested in a timeline of evolution for speech, Jackendoff lays out a non-linear trajectory in his book "Foundations of Language" that makes a lot of sense in terms of seeing how much can develop prior to syntax (and syntax not developing all in one glorious burst of Chomskyan recursion).

Worth checking out for your interests.


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. ??
BLOGGER: I didn't think I implied that progression; however, babbling does not require input. Deaf children babble. It could be a separate phenomenon that now leads to speech but did not do so originally. [NB the 'could be.' I'm not insisting on the point, just noting the possibility.]


Deaf children babble, yes, but children deprived of aural input, via deafness or otherwise, babble manually rather than vocally. Whether deaf or hearing, children babble by repeating the phonological units of the language they are exposed to. If that language is signed, those units are manual, if it is spoken the units are oral. Linguistic input is required in either case.
BLOGGER: Deaf children (i.e, "children deprived of aural input") do make babbling sounds, but they do not keep it up. And remember, most children born deaf do not encounter sign language (apart from the same gestures hearing infants encounter) until they are well beyond the babbling age. Many parents still do not discover that their child is deaf until they ask a pediatrician why their child does not talk.


Hearing children also produce manual babbling iff they are exposed to signed languages.
The point is that babbling is the patterned repetition of "speech sounds". Stoel-Gammon & Otomo found that deaf children do not produce cannonical babbling in the vocal modality, and the work of Laura Petittio extends this.I am not aware of any study that shows otherwise.
BLOGGER: Some people may be wondering what we are haggling over. The point is whether babbling is dependent on the presence of language or not. If not, then it could serve as a stepping stone to language. It is actually such a critical point that I would like to make a post on the matter and I thank Uzza for sticking to her guns and demanding to be taken seriously.


Radio transmitters provide a misleading metaphor for speech. They encourage the notion of a signal that must be encoded and then decoded rather than an active tool whose meaning comes from where it directs one's attention.

How about as a metaphor for language ,with the critical feature being the ability to refer to someone who is not present ?

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