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The Pre-Linguistic Period

The last couple of videos have shown Otis babbling. He is really vocal which seems to be a characteristic of his stage in development. He is 11 months old and within a week of turning one. This makes it the perfect time to talk about the pre-linguistic period of language development. 

Dr Montanaro writes (in Understanding the Human Being) the pre-linguistic period lasts from birth (or even before) to 10-12 months. My main interest is how can I best assist my child in this period. 

Dr Montanaro writes "In this stage all the work children perform is hidden within them, and very little can be observed externally. We need to be aware of this silent process, if we want to facilitate it. If we want to change our ideas about children, we have to observe them carefully." Ok, I'm observing. 

I think it comes intuitively, mothers being able to understand their babies through their cries and babble. During his first 11 months I have observed Otis express himself vocally. His tone, rhythms, movements, vocal force, breathing patterns have all helped him be understood. Now his sounds and intentions are more obvious. He is making what Montanaro calls holophrases, one word that expresses a complete situation. 

Otis loves making noise and it is usually pleasurable for us also. But what about understanding what is being said to him. Dr Montanaro again "In considering the development of language , we should distinguish between the capacity to emit sounds and words, and the ability to understand their meaning, because these do not always go together, although the latter generally precedes the former."

I know Otis understands many words; Mum, Dad, Caspar. But what about others? What about commands? It's a little difficult to ascertain. Body language and movement are important too. Commands such as 'come' usually occur with open arms. 'Let's eat' is followed by the serving of food. It's probably not all that important to know at this time what is understood verbally but rather continue with good role modelling, precise and clear language, speaking at the child's level, making eye contact and lots of talking and interaction with not only ourselves but our wider community. 

Some other tips from Dr Montanaro;

  • speak slowly, not too loudly,
  • describe actions we perform with them during maternal care and at other opportunities,
  • respond to your child so they learn speaking is two way communication,
  • use real words in their correct context, 
  • name body parts as you touch them, name objects as you use them in feeding or dressing,
  • expose the child to adult language and conversation (this is why I prefer a baby carrier over a pram, the child can clearly hear the conversation and observe lip movements, expressions and emotions),
  • pay attention to expression,
  • read well chosen books, based in reality to expand their knowledge.

 Here are a couple of my previous posts about language development.

When you talk to them...

How to talk to a newborn.


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