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The key. Yeah. She. Age. I need a Big 8 0 0 8 0. Do you think the father will succeed in teaching his boy how to speak Arnie. Well I'm sure the boy will learn John but I doubt that what we just heard will have had much to do with it where our minds meet and a series of explorations and human communication conducted by professors John brined and Arnold Nelson of the Department of English Western Michigan University where minds meet has produced and recorded by WMU Carey under a grant from the National Association of educational broadcasters. In a shrinking world where minds meet in words or not at all man speech is his most decisive act. These discussions explore this world of speech a topic for today is baby talk
where the speech of children. Here now our professors Prine and Nelson. This is John frind. This is Donald Nelson. Arnie you seem to disapprove of that father's attempt to teach a little boy the ABC. I'm not really John. I know that father and I'm sure that the boys language learning is in good hands. What I meant was that deliberate drill in speech for a three year old ordinarily has nothing to do with the Child Development in language and speech. Well what can parents do to teach their children how to talk. Will your children learn John. How did you teach them. That's an embarrassing question to ask a person who earns his living teaching English. I don't remember doing anything very deliberately or systematically. I suppose I did pretty much what came naturally as most parents do. Well what comes naturally. Well that's mainly what our program today is about what comes naturally or at least without much planning in the development of the speech of children. And now answer my own question about what parents can do to teach their children how to talk. First they can learn what they can about the process of language development so they can better enjoy
observing what is surely one of the most interesting things that happens to a human being. And second they can try to provide the child with a healthful psychological climate to grow up in. There is nothing in the child more sensitive to psychological pressures than his speech. Well perhaps we can make some contribution to the first of these things today John. It's a strange irony is not the millions of dollars are spent every year in our schools to teach students a second language and that this professional service is only moderately successful. But the crucial matter of teaching children their first language is handled with amazing success by unpopular amateurs. Amazing success when you consider what a complex achievement speech is. But maybe the child learns in spite of his teachers. One thing we can be sure of is that there's a tremendous variety in the way parents do their teaching. Yet children seem to pass through certain stages of development in much the same way. Yes in our culture they're born with a meaningless wail and by a married sex they're normally ready to tackle reading and writing.
I see about five stages in the child's speech growth up to the point where he is truly using language and I think we can illustrate them today with our recordings of a number of children. The first stage I got on communication. The baby has all the necessary organs for speech but in the beginning they're being used for their more basic purposes. My breathing and sucking song yes. During his first few weeks the baby is no more able to send and receive any messages from the outside world than baby bird. The second stage is the beginning of communication. The development of the meaningful cry cries. Some mothers claim their babies have different cries depending upon what they want food or dry pants. I don't doubt that at all. I suspect that we underestimate the baby's skill both in sending and receiving the contrasting signals that are necessary for communication. OK well what's the third stage. I say babbling. That starts fairly early and builds up until about the eighth month when the baby amuses himself for fairly long periods with the sound of his own voice babbling communicates something state of well-being maybe contentment yes primarily it's plain but isn't he also
getting some practice in making the sounds and the language in a way. But he also practices a lot of sounds that he won't be able to use in his language. These he will have to get rid of. Well during the babbling stage not the baby also begins to understand the structure of the language as others speak to him. Yes I call that the fourth stage. He recognizes certain words phrases intonation patterns and tones of voice and he responds to them. Finally at about the end of the first year he enters the fifth stage actually using language meaningful words phrases sentences they gradually emerge and as the child finds that they help him get what he wants. The growth in language facility is phenomenal. One of these stages overlap a great deal known thing in the babbling for instance doesn't stop as soon as the baby is able to say if you were. But let's listen to some of this baby talk now so that we can see how the baby performs in these stages. The youngest speaker we have is Scott two months. He's lying in his crib and his mother is asking him some hard
questions. Communicating I think. Of. It. Are you going to take this. And I get it. Do you know what's going on and why for me. Everybody wondering why you're standing you had your head. Up. Why are you saying don't you stand against something. I don't suppose much information is passing between Scott and his mother. His has as to the question seem irrelevant. I don't think Scott is even listening to interrupts. It sounds funny to apply such lofty standards to a two month old baby but really it won't
be long before he will listen and will give relevant answers. That is he will be able to enter into a kind of oral give and take you get the idea at least of communication as some kind of a shared experience. Now he's pretty much isolated. Now there's a great difference between Scott and Jinx jinxes eight months and she makes fairly interesting conversation with her mother and. Kind of going to. Her. I don't get it. I don't. Really. You. Know. But. I. Kick. You notice that the mother leaves the conversation. She provides a stimulus and then Jinx responds with his mother's snatch of that dialogue word Jinx initiates everything.
And the mother can only try to follow along through the. Game. Really true. I think. He did. Oh really. I do. 30 feet what do you mean by big.
Yeah. Well kick. With that kind of training Jinx will soon learn that almost anything she does can serve to start a verbal response in another person. Here she's learning what it means to be a human being nothing that talk is important. If she coughs somebody says some words if she spits more words if she sticks out her tongue again more words she's finding out that the world she's a part of is put together with words. Well here's a little more of that conversation. You can hear Jinx makes some almost intelligible answers here. Where do you get it. Right. Well. But oh. I. Like the line that divides babbling from real words is a fine one. I'm sure she said that's blood there.
I hope that's not what started her crying. You mentioned before John that the Babbler ranges widely among possible speech sounds. I have a sample of some of those songs from Michelle at 10 months. Here's a series of very short excerpts from a 15 minute period when she was experimenting with her voice. I. That sounds like deliberate drill of running through some exercises a few consonants then a few vowels. Mostly in bursts of two and three. Well the Babbler is interested in rhyme and rhythm repeating the same song with variations maybe
this is where poetry begins. Well at least is where mama papa and Juju come from. Well the babbling goes on even after the baby is talking I suppose because even the 2 year old finds pleasure in that kind of poetry. Here's Joe at 19 months playing alone in his crib. This nonsense has considerable style to it. Yes. Joe has a whole cabin area ordinary words he used one at the end there see but he's still inventing some beauties of his own. I'm fascinated by his attempt to make a sentence approximating the intonation of adult sentence
structure. The single word see is a sentence of course as it stands. It's obviously a question sentence. Here's some more of Joe's talk much more meaningful this time. He wants to know if he can get out of his crib. OK. Yeah. Bye bye. That's pretty clear communication. But make sure the message gets through by resorting to the meaningful crime. Yes Joy illustrates three straight stages there crying babbling and talking point to be made from that. Well I guess the point is that you shouldn't stretch the child's patience for the sake of getting a recording of his voice. Yes his parents would have picked him up before he crime but they wanted as much recording as
possible for. The child's speech ought to be rewarded whenever possible by an immediate and appropriate response. Well we have to take the blame for that lapse in Dell's training while only responding appropriately to the child's words is a little tricky. He ought to be rewarded for coming close. But how can a parent tell when there are so many borderline cases. Here's Joel for instance babbling and possibly talking in this I hear very clearly I'm going bicycle. Right. Very clear yet. Joe's father insisted on Vulcan talk about going is by a by and that means a ride in the car except when it means he wants to get out of the grim. Well ordinarily I believe a parent is as a baby is not saying something but I've lost a little faith
in parents years since my experience with Paul Paul was to when I first recorded him as parents worried about Paul because he had started to talk. He did a great deal of babbling in his crib when he woke up in the morning and singing too. But he wasn't saying anything. This is the kind of thing his parents were hearing. How. I. Was.
It. Was a little star John. Yes it was a good imitator too but seem to be keeping his ideas entirely to himself. Not a word out of him but it's about an hour's recording of his early morning babbling and singing. I thought I heard something. Listen to this. Oh. The first time I heard them I didn't make anything out of it either. But it seems pretty obvious now he's chanting something about Little Mo maybe you checked on that one John what's Paul talking about.
When I played it back for Paul's parents they were astounded but they felt the Paul wasn't really saying anything meaningful. But you had suggested that the phrase might have come from the story of the gingerbread boy who was chased by the little old man and the little old lady. When I asked about that the whole thing became clear. Paul had been listening to that story but his parents had been listening to him. I think Paul's case exposes a common error that parents make paying too little attention to his so-called jibberish which often contains the intonation patterns of real sentences and phrases. That's right. What you're saying is that language learning doesn't start with the first word long before that as we've seen the baby is learning to listen to the tune of speech. I think Paul's a little old lady was the end product of a great deal of attention he had been paying to language what we heard was no accident. Several minutes later in that recording Paul said little old lady again listen. Oh my God.
I don't doubt that some of his other remarks were sensible too if only we could hear accurately. How did Paul develop after around 5 months later I got another recording of Paul's early morning monologue. There's not so much UNINTELLIGIBLE talk now. What he says in this little passage is clear enough. When his mother responded to his words she found him holding his damn pajamas in his hand. Her. Yes. I interviewed Paul at two and a half. I don't play a little of our conversation to indicate what Paul will have to work on next. Relating himself to others through his speech. We
said that Scott a two months made sounds that were completely unrelated to his mother's part of the dialogue appalls conversation resembles that a little. He's responding to my questions but his answers are mostly related to himself rather than to me. We were sitting at my desk and he was looking at a blue stone heavy isn't it. What color are your pants. Why didn't. Your mommy. OK. He rather types and talk. I want to types that he said.
And he'd rather say what's important to him than what I wanted him to say when I asked him what color his pants where he answered me. Then he said something as plain as later translated for me as not Mikey. He wanted me to know that his red pants were his not hand me downs from his older brother Mark as most of his other clothes were and his parents were on the beam. They respond to him and Paul against the necessary feedback would tell him that he's been success right. Well I watched this fascinating process with John and his mother. They were looking at a picture book and John was initiating all the commentary. I didn't understand John's words but his mother translated not for my benefit but for jobs. John was about two and one of the mother realize it or not it was an excellent tutor. Session. There are. Dark. Yet for all of us. Why are. We. All are trying. Yeah. That's really hard to ignore aren't bigger than truck. Your. Turn.
Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh oh me oh. Well Joey baby move along. Translation of that last phrase with a perfectly literal. Did you ever find out what John was saying it's still a mystery. I know that babies bomb boom is a statement not a question. Judd's intonation markers are quite clear although he helped his mother make the translations. If instruction is second language could be carried on as directly and efficiently is that foreign language teaching would achieve a real breakthrough for any other teaching the learner unlike John is highly motivated. He's instructing only what he wants to know at the moment and he's rewarded instantly by the attention and encouragement of the teacher. Well here's another excerpt from that lesson for our girl. You. Were are right. Yes I have a feeling that I did yeah.
Park not ready yet. That last exchange is especially interesting to me as an example of the child's learning English grammar when Judd said ready yet. Yes his ready yet sounded like a statement. Now we normally say he's not ready yet. All we ask is he ready yet but we don't say he's ready yet. On his mother's what's not ready yet helps him learn that grammatical rule one of the multitude of the magical rules that we learn painlessly at our mother's knee and never have to think about again. Well in that recording session with John and I collected a few more examples of grammatical matters from John's older sisters Jody was approaching four and Jill was almost five. At that age vocabulary growth was very fast and children often make errors and putting sounds in the correct order. Here are two examples from Jodi in the first one salt shaker. She caught the mistake herself and corrected it in the second one. Old King Cole where she reversed colon soul. Her mother helped her out. Very.
Well. So she cared for. Her. Really you're our own King Cole. Yes if he had this book. Yeah. Yeah. That has a 0 0 0. 0 0. 0. I have two more of Jodi's interesting errors in the first one she produces an ungrammatical question because the words fall in the wrong order. And in the second she next a wrong inference about the conjugation of English verbs. Why don't you know me. Don't be guessing Greeks are you sure you're sure who you're both of those areas are perfectly understandable adieus is a false analogy. Judy should have changed the sound of the vowel from two to up when she added the s ending but the evidence in the rest of our English verbs doesn't bear this out. No it doesn't. Cept in a few similar cases like say changing to
says well how do you count for what that is John. Well I think Jodi probably has been asked dozens of times. Do you know what that is. So when she wants to know what that is that's what she says. But you'll soon learn the intricacies of transformational grammar and be able to wring all the changes that English called for in that sentence patterns. Well I'd like to play one more word there John this one from Jill. Jim is a great inventor of new transformations. She's responsible for on gusted meaning disgusted Pyar whip for pirate and title for both time. Here's another thing. About. God. The One. God. Oh I don't understand what I'm gonna think about. Going back about. Oh my god yes yes my dear you have and I do I do I think. Jody and Jill seem to cooperate in their invention here. We want a good team in the business of using their parents but teamwork isn't the rule though it seems to me among 4 and 5 year olds like Scott and Paul. They're still somewhat isolated from others. They can apparently be playing together
and even talking together but their own individual needs seem to dominate their general behavior. Well isn't that true of adults too. Yes but not in the same way adults can identify their needs with those of others and cooperate for the ultimate satisfaction of their own individual needs. But small children want self-satisfaction now not in the long run. I spent an afternoon recording three four and five year olds supervising them and guiding their activities so that the affair had the semblance of cooperative communication. But as I listened to the recording later I was impressed with the amount of egocentric communication that they had had in a passage I want to play. Mark the four year old performs like a prima donna at the front of the stage. Alaric who was five interrupts the performance once with a caustic remark from the way in. And Napier Tami and Eric I know count in the year January gave her a ring.
Where are. You. This will get. Her. OK. So they had a For Sale. OK yes go for you. You knew it was shallow. We're going here right now. Yes. Right you know you're right I knew you had a luau me. Oh. I do. How do you. Know maybe Mark is headed for show business John. He shows a delightful disregard for the critics that's true. Well he knows that speech is useful for more than communication with others for message sending. He knows it's good for fun for passing the time away for avoiding silence for releasing those feelings and even for entertaining others if they're willing.
We've touched on some of these facets of speech in earlier programs and will be looking at others later. The speech of children is a focal point that informs every aspect of human communication. That's why I said at the beginning of today's program the parents ought to learn how to observe the development of their own children speech and communication not only so that they can better teach the children but also so that the children can teach them. I have recordings of one more child John. There will be time to discuss their implications but they suggest that one of the most interesting and instructive topics of all is the growth of the unique individual personality the individual speech is the most important gauge of his identity and his personality. I have recordings of one child my own in the course of 13 years at 3 7 10 and 16. The first two were made when she was three. Here's Chris telling the story of The Three Little Pigs. Let me tell you I mean only to you. Fairly good thing. Right.
Yeah. If I get away I know they can't be alive. Thank you Jill. Thanks. I couldn't help noticing how careful she was to make a proper sound and that's usually one of the last sounds German master a little later in the story demonstrates her ability to play different roles. She's imitating her parents reading and storing it. So we. Can really feel for it get worse. Will. Me So. Speak speak. OK doing good. She reads a lot of feeling as if the outcome of the story means a great deal to her in
this imaginative play and by imitating others she's learning what it feels like to be somebody else. This kind of role playing practice will be very important to her as she grows older not only as a wholesome counterbalance for natural human egocentricity but also as you point out in a later program as a tool for thinking before we leave today's topic. What did Chris sound like as she grew older. Well here she is first aid sound. We haven't done anything right there at the moment. Then a age town where I've been home just about an hour a week if I want to go there man I'll be only one day in here we can get really cold. And finally at 16 Well I don't know why Harry and I won't pass tomorrow yesterday I was addressing your hair. And that doesn't do anything different you know. You've been listening to where minds meet a discussion of human communication by
professors John freind and Arnold Nelson where minds meat is produced and recorded by WMU Carey under a grant from the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the end of the Radio Network.
Where minds meet
Speech of children
Producing Organization
Western Michigan University
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Baby-Talk: The Speech of Children
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Discussions explore world of speech, conducted by Professors John Freund and Arnold Nelson of Western Michigan University
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Social Issues
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Host: Freund, John
Host: Nelson, Arnold
Producing Organization: Western Michigan University
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 63-4-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:08
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Chicago: “Where minds meet; Speech of children,” 1963-01-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “Where minds meet; Speech of children.” 1963-01-21. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: Where minds meet; Speech of children. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from