When your baby reaches 6 months old, they can wave and point to communicate with you. This is also likely when your baby babbles. But did you know that when they babble, other parents in the world are more or less witnessing the same babbling actions in their babies too?
Babbling is the first stage in the babies’ path to learning the language. It comes after the cooing stage, when they attempt to say the words, although they do it rhythmically by syllable, according to the description of the American linguist, Mark Liberman.
When babies babble, those babbles usually sound like mama, dada, papa, nana, and other slight variations. This is true for many babies from all around the world, regardless of their language.
Larry Trask, a professor of linguistics, wrote an essay entitled, “Where do mama/papa words come from?” The essay cited that in many languages, mother and father translate to mama/papa, or similar sounding words. For instance, it’s mama/baba in Swahili and Lou (Kenya), mama/tata in Romania, anya/apa in Hungarian, mama/tayta in Quechua (Ecuador), and more.
You might assume then that babies make sounds similar to mama/papa to refer to their parents. However, it is the other way around. Mama/papa just happens to be easier for babies to produce and the parents used these words to refer to themselves. When babies utter these words, they were just actually vocalizing.
Just try opening your mouth yourself and the word /a/ comes out naturally, unless you move your lips or tongue. It is also easier to make /p/, /m/, and /b/ sounds because your tongue can remain as is, without moving. If you raise the front of your tongue a bit, you can make the /t/, /d/, and/n/ sounds. These make it easier for babies to babble mama, papa, tata, dada, nana, or baba.
Although your baby babbles of mama/papa may not necessarily mean that they are learning the words because you taught them or let them hear it frequently, it should not dampen your mood when you hear them babble for the first time. The fact that they are already babbling is a good enough reason to feel overjoyed by another milestone in your baby’s life.