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Wednesday
Mar302011

Viral YouTube Video: Baby Babble or Secret Language?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A viral video of two diaper-clad babies babbling in the kitchen has people wondering what the tots are talking about.

Eighteen-month-old fraternal twin boys Sam and Ren appear to be having a grown-up conversation complete with questions, answers, facial expressions and gestures -- even the odd laugh. But they aren't speaking English.

"These kids are right on the cusp of language," said Stephen Camarata, professor of hearing and speech Sciences at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville.

Instead of producing words, the boys are making different sounds in the tone and rhythm of speech.

"They're using the intonation patterns of sentences -- imitating sentences in a crude way," Camarata said. "It's one way that children learn how to talk."

"Even before they have words, they know how conversation works," said Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, education professor and director of the infant language project at the University of Delaware in Newark.

"They're producing syllables emphatically and using them for communication purposes," she said. "They're having a ball."

Eventually, Sam and Ren will start replacing bits of babble with English. But for now, the boys are content with their improvised idioms.

"They're laughing and grinning and imitating," Camarata said. "With twins you've got two kids at exactly the same developmental level going back and forth and having a blast."

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