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Building Blocks of Talk

When babies babble, they may say a lot about speech

4:38pm, November 15, 2002

When you tell someone to stop babbling, your meaning is obvious: Quit talking gibberish and speak clearly.

Give the youngest babblers a break, though. Scientists now suspect that the inveterate babbling of 7- to 12-month-old babies contains remarkably systematic vocal features that, soon enough, render them able to utter such parental favorites as "No," "More," and "Why?" A better understanding of babbling may even allow researchers unprecedented glimpses into the controversial prehistory of human languages.

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