"My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it."
Clarence Budington Kelland
Cheryl and Darwin is currently in Penang with Cheryl's parents and I am missing them terribly. A few days ago, Cheryl told me in a text that Darwin's first word is "Papa", in spite of my best efforts to teach him to say "Mama" whenever I can. He also started crawling (actual locomotion) after weeks of perching on all fours and lunging forward rhythmically until he falls on his face.
Today, Cheryl sent me a video recording of Darwin attempting to wear out his first word by repeating it ad nauseam.
At the time of recording, Darwin is in his 210th day of life - or seven months old. According to my DENVER II chart, that puts him right on schedule in his developmental progress.
This doesn't mean that Darwin loves his old man more than his mother. It just meant that he learned a word that he does not know the meaning of i.e. his use of the word is non-specific. He may be able to say it over and over again but he certainly hadn't associated that word with me. The first words of babies all over the world, regardless of language and culture are going to either be "papa", "mama", "baba", or "dada". That's just because they happen to be easiest words to say. Seeing as 3 out of 4 of those words can be construed as paternal references in the English-speaking world, it is no wonder that most mothers are lamenting how their little babbling cherubs started calling their fathers first (if online parenting message boards are any indication).
Research have shown in 2 to 3 days old babies that words that end with repeating syllables tended to cause increased activity in the temporal and left frontal lobes of their cute little brains - and it is no coincidence that the language centre on the left side of the brain is dominant for most right-handed adults. This makes for a rather convincing argument that our human ability to process language is not learnt but rather, it was hardwired. This may also explain why our babies' first words are repeating syllables - we are programmed to recognise these repetitions as language.
It makes sense that the simplest, most primitive form of meaningful language of our species arose from our ancestors making a sound and doubling it.
Incidentally, this can also be a powerful explanation to why the words for mother and father in most languages in the world (particularly "mama") are identical or similar even though those languages do not share any common roots. We parents, foolishly in love, think that we are teaching our infants the words to call us when in actuality, it was they who named us. In prehistory in a cave somewhere, a cave-baby said "papa" because it was easy to say, and its cave-daddy thought that his kid was calling him that.
And hundreds of thousands of years later, in spite of all the sciences and all the knowledge in the world proving to him otherwise, this modern day father still can't help but secretly feel a special sort of private joy, thinking: "Darwin called me papa! He's calling for me from a thousand miles away!"
k0k s3n w4i