HOW BABIES TALK by Roberta Michnik Golinkoff


The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life
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This guide to how children learn language highlights the “extraordinary in the ordinary” and applies the latest scientific research to understanding the art of speech. Golinkoff and Hirsh-Patek, academics at the University of Delaware and Temple University respectively, draw from linguistics, psychology, and their own experience as mothers to plumb the depths of language learning. Their conclusion? Babies know a lot more than they—re letting on. In fact, because of breakthrough studies that monitor fetal heartbeats, researchers now know that even before birth, babies not only recognize their mothers’ voices, but can also discriminate between nursery rhymes they’ve heard before and those that are new. From that point, the authors discuss babies’ early attempts at nonverbal communication, moving toward those hard-won first words, through the toddlers’ “vocabulary spurt,” right up to the preschoolers’ Herculean struggle to master not only the niceties of grammar, but also the social aspect of knowing what to say and when to say it. Using techniques that track babies’ gaze, heartbeats, and bottle-sucking rates, the book does an impressive job of taking readers behind the scenes of each of these milestones. While they stress that “children’s minds are rich with language-learning resources,” the authors emphasize what parents and caregivers can do to help the process along; suggestions include using “infant-directed” language, commonly known as “baby talk” so that words, phrases and vowels stand out amidst the endless stream of adult talk, and engaging in “rich interpretation” of a toddler’s two-word sentence by expanding on the thought without offering corrections. How Babies Talk takes a refreshingly reassuring tone about speech delays, asserting that most children eventually catch up to their more loquacious peers. When it comes to language learning, the authors declare, “nature and nurture are involved in an intricate dance with each other. ‘’ This book will certainly help parents learn some new steps.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1999
ISBN: 0-525-94455-9
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1999


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