Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Where's "Mama"?

Louis and Mama throwing "stones"

It's a fascinating thing watching babies learn to speak. Endless months of babbling and then, finally, the odd word emerges from the baby burble. I obviously liked to kid myself that his first word was, of course, ma-ma, way back at about month seven. But, clearly, Louis was just discovering that pursing his lips and breathing out at the same time gave him a 'ma' 'ma' sound, to add to the others in his repertoire. And then it was on to the next consonant. And the next one. 

I say "clearly" because for months now Louis has obstinately refused to say Mama at all. He'll "Dadada" until the cows come home, and has done since, oh, so long ago that I forget exactly when. And he definitely means Dada when he says it. He' says it when Daddy J comes home, when he sees photos of DJ, when he hears him on the stairs, etc etc. But when he sees me - in the flesh or in pics? Nada. 

Now that he's trying out even more words, it's interesting to try and work out why he chooses the ones he does. "Nana" (for banana) was easy. He was pretty much weaned on bananas and has eaten at least a treeful ever since. "Quack, quack" because he was obsessed with ducks (although he apparently also thinks that dogs and cats also quack). "Key" and "car" came spilling out of his mouth simultaneously, which makes sense, I guess and reflects his love of both. Especially "keys". 

Then "shoes" are exciting because wearing them means he gets to go out. And "stones" just popped out at Grandma Penny's the other day because he was having so much fun throwing them on the beach. "Toes" and "nose" were an easy addition because we spend quite a lot of time looking for them and pointing to them. Today he was trying for "squirrel" (although it's a tough one to spit out) while watching one in our garden. 

I figure that what all those words have in common is they are all things that make him happy and excite him. Which begs the question of what exactly do I do? I guess he's just starting as he means to go on: taking his Mama for granted. 


Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

I am fascinated by the language-learning process of children. I think, if I won the lottery and got to go back to university, that would be top of my list of things to study.

There are many, many theories about why Mum, Mummy, Mama... is not usually the first word, or even a very early one. The one I like is that, until they reach a certain stage of self-awareness, children actually see their mothers as part of themselves. We're not separate entities, like the ducks and squirrels and dadas. We just are, so they don't have a need to name us.

Once they become more self-aware (start recognising themselves in the mirror, for example, and noticing that a change in the mirror happens on them too), they will start recognising their mothers as separate entities and then will come the 'Mama!'.

And it won't stop. Ever. When he's three and is shouting for you five times a night because he's discovering nightmares, you'll really wish he never learnt that word!

Iota said...

Squirrel is a tough choice.

I'm with Coding Mamma - I did one course in Linguistics at university, and yes, I'd go back and study language-learning in children. I'd do it better now, of course, for all those years of field work.

After 3 weeks of school, my daughter is still saying EP instead of PE. I hate to correct because it's so sweet.

Babies who brunch said...

love the theory coding mamma. thanks! another explanation in our household is that louis started speaking georgian. let me explain: in georgian, mum is "deda" and dad is "mama". the theory being that when baby first says "mama" the dad says "he must mean me!"

having said all that, sometimes i think louis is saying "mummy". but actually i think he's just saying "me" "me" "me". again, a worrying sign of things to come!!

A Modern Mother said...

My first started with dadada too. I didn't take it personally (even though at the time I was at work fulltime and he was home with her). No sireeee, I wasn't a bit jealous.

Babies who brunch said...

Guess what? I thought the law of sod meant that L had actually started saying "Mummeee" this week but I now think he is just saying "me me me me me me", which backs up Coding Mamma's theory!

Mrs. said...

Loving your blog. L is too cute! He is growing up tons! Phoebe won't say momma either- only daddy, dada, dddd...anything to do with her dad! And every animal is a dog for Phoebe. So Funny.

Great to *see* you online.


Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

My youngest even said Grandma (not even my mother but my mother IN LAW to add salt to the wound) before he said Mummy, proving he will never make it as a diplomat.

An award for you at mine.

Josie @Sleep is for the Weak said...

What a clever boy you have there! No mama's here either. No much of anything actually apart from a beautifully middle-class sounding "hello" which I'm rather proud of. Mostly Kai just chats complete jibberish in a very earnest and serious fashion. He obviously knows exactly what he's saying but I haven't a clue.

I'm really looking forward to those gibberish words turning into one's I can understand. It's so exciting isn't it?

In another 12 months we'll be moaning about the constant "Muuummmmy" whinging so I think I'm going to try and make the most of the (relative) peace!