Friday, September 30, 2005

Goo goo ga ga go go?

It's an essential part of being a parent: "Who's a lubbly lickle bubba den?","Do you want some more bubba num nums?", "Oh, has diddums done a poo poo?" etc. ad nauseam...

But according to the BBC, a hospital in Yorkshire has banned people from cooing over babies as it infringes their human rights and might cause infections to spread. Is it "bureaucracy gone mad" as one critic has asserted, or a sensible precaution to prevent nosey visitors poking and prodding your little baby without so much as a by-your-leave?

The whole issue of talking to babies and engaging in what child language theorists call C.D.S. (Child-directed speech) is an important area of study. Many believe that early verbal interaction with a baby (even from a few days old) is crucial in helping them develop interactional skills of their own. Others argue that babies need time and space to develop, without constant gibberish being spouted at them by doting grannies and grandads. And what of the words and sounds we use towards babies? Should we offer them such "poverty of stimulus" as Noam Chomsky famously claimed back in the 1960s: in other words, should we feed babies a diet of broken, half-words and strange gurgling noises? Or should we - as some cultures around the world like those in Samoa - refuse to engage in babytalk and instead treat children as valid conversational partners only when they can speak properly themselves? Have a look at this entry in teh online encyclopedia Wikipedia for more information on this topic.

So is this decision based on sound behavioural and developmental criteria or a case of a hospital fearing litigation if a baby picks up a nasty infection from a flu-ridden visitor? You can follow the discussion on the BBC website and add your views too.

Useful for:
ENA1 - Child Language Acquisition
ENA6 - Language Debates

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