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article imageScientists know why 'Mama' and 'Dada' are baby's first words

By Chris V. Thangham     Aug 28, 2008 in Environment
Scientists claim they have found out why baby’s first words are often “mama” or “dada”. Similar baby responses are seen in other languages as well.
One main reason a baby always says the word “mama” and “dada” is because of the close proximity of both parents. The languages in the many cultures have also made it easy by creating words for mothers and fathers, with patterns of repeating sounds easier for babies to say those words, according to the scientists.
To prove this scientifically, brain scans were taken of 22 newborns (with age 2 days to 3 days) when they listened to recordings of words with repeating (“mubaba” and “penana”) and non-repeating (“mubage” and “penaku”) sounds. The research was led by University of British Columbia post-doctoral fellow Judit Gervain.
The scientists found the babies’ brain activity increased in their temporal and left frontal areas whenever the repeating sounds were played. The words with non-adjacent repetitions didn’t cause any distinctive responses in the brain.
Hence, the scientists believe the words, “mama” and “dada” (or “papa”) is chosen aptly to teach a baby and this ability is hard-wired inside the human brain to recognize repeating sounds.
Gervain told Reuters: "It's probably no coincidence that many languages around the world have repetitious syllables in their 'child words,'"
E.g. the word "papa" in Italian and "tata" (grandpa) in Hungarian.
Gervain added: "The language center of most right-handed adults is located on the left side of the brain…This is consistent with our finding with newborn babies and supports our belief humans are born with abilities that allow us to perceive and learn our mother tongue systematically and efficiently."
The study will be published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In most languages there are repeating sounds but in some languages there are no repetitions in words. Like in Spanish it is “Madre” and “Padre”. But the shortened versions of it is easy to pronounce: “ma”.
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