Why do babies say dad dad first?

Answered by Tom Adger

There are various theories proposed by linguistic specialists to explain why babies often say “dada” before “mama.” One theory suggests that it is because babies initially do not perceive their mothers as separate individuals but instead view themselves and their mothers as fused identities. This theory highlights the early stages of a baby’s development and the way they perceive the world around them.

During the first few months of life, babies are highly dependent on their caregivers, particularly their mothers. They rely on their mothers for nourishment, comfort, and security. As a result, they may see their mothers as an extension of themselves rather than as separate entities. This fusion of identities could explain why babies initially utter sounds like “dada” that are easier to produce, rather than attempting to say “mama.”

It is important to note that this theory is not universally accepted, and there may be other factors at play. Each baby’s development is unique, and their language acquisition may differ. However, understanding the theory behind this phenomenon can provide some insight into the early stages of language development.

When considering the linguistic aspect, the sounds “dada” and “mama” are among the first consonant-vowel combinations that babies can produce. The “d” sound is produced by pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth and releasing it, while the “m” sound is made by pressing the lips together and then separating them while making a sound. These simple sounds are easier for babies to imitate compared to more complex consonant combinations.

Additionally, the repetition of the “d” sound in “dada” may make it more appealing and easier for babies to remember and reproduce. This repetition can also make it a fun and engaging sound for babies to experiment with, leading to its frequent use.

In terms of personal experiences, I remember observing my nephew’s language development when he was a baby. He, too, said “dada” before “mama.” At that time, my sister, his mother, often joked that he was showing favoritism towards his father. However, knowing the linguistic theory behind this phenomenon, I realized that it was not a reflection of his preference but rather a result of his language development stage.

Babies may say “dada” before “mama” due to various reasons. One theory suggests that babies initially perceive themselves and their mothers as fused identities, which may influence their early language production. Additionally, the simplicity and repetitive nature of the “d” sound may make it easier and more enjoyable for babies to produce. However, it is crucial to remember that each baby’s language development is unique, and there may be other factors at play in their individual progression.