Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Why can my son say the sound "A-va, va?"

The other day, my son 14-month old son was running around the house saying "A-va, va". You can listen here. (Although you can hear me saying "A-va,va" is the recording, it was M-chan who initially said the phrase and it is me who is imitating him.) I was surprised because the sound "va" does not exist in Japanese. The only English my son, M-chan, is exposed to is the gibberish I speak. I was wondering whether his "A-va-va" vocal experimentation was perhaps the result of him listening to my English. Or, could one expect other Japanese babies to make such sounds at 14 months even if they had not been exposed to any English. Can anyone give me some guidance?


Marco Polo said...

I don't think it's why "can", it's why "does"?
OK, here's a multiple choice quiz. Choose the most likely answer:
a) it's because his dad's a gaijin, and he's ... you know... different
b) he's a freak
c) all babies experiment with sounds, playing with their lips, tongues, gums and breath, to make different noises. It's only later they learn that certain of these noises get results in the world, others are ignored.

JH said...

Thanks for your answer.
I have read that at a very young age babies start to imitate the sounds around them. I was wondering if after 14 months of life, babies have been exposed enough to their parents' language that they stop producing sounds different from the languages to which they are exposed.
Now that I think of it, my son produces a lot of sounds that sound like complete gibberish to me but might be sounds in other languages.
Still, without trying to sound like a "ha-fu* babies are inherently different from Japanese babies" dweeb, I can't help but wonder whether M-chan's exposure English has had some kind of influence on the sounds that he experiments with.
* "Ha-fu", derived from the English word "Half", is a Japanese term I abhor that is used to describe children who have one Japanese and one non-Japanese parent.
Changing the subject, come to think of it, "why does" sounds a little more grammatical than "why can." For the heck of it, I did a corpus search on "Why can" and I found the phrase "Why can't" to be the most common, but I also found a couple of "Why can"s. "Why can" appears to be used more in speech or in informal prose; the trouble with rules is that they are routinely broken. Here is a link for a decent on-line corpus:
For the search, you can select from one of many sources. I selected "The Times 1995".

gami said...

Hello!! I am Gami(V)o¥o(V)
M-chan’s voice was so cute☆ I have not seen him for a long time. Is he fine?
By the way, why did M-chan say “a-va-va”?
I read LEARNING A FIRST LANGUAGE this weekend. The book said that “Even in early weeks and months of life, however, infants are able to hear very subtle differences between the sounds of human language.” It is difficult for us to pronounce /f/ and /v/, because these sounds do not exist in Japanese. But if infants hear these words, they will be able to hear these sounds easily. What is more, they will be able to distinguish /v/ from /b/. He always hears his father’s English. I thought it is natural for him to pronounce “a-va-va”.
He will pronounce many sounds that do not exist in Japanese. I am looking forward to listening to the news.