Language Experts Reveal Why Dada Is Usually a Baby’s First Word

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Babies reaching important milestones is an exciting journey for parents, with many parents most thrilled by listening to their babies utter their first word. However, it can be surprising and even slightly disheartening for mothers when that initial word is “dada” rather than “mama.” However, the reasons behind this occurrence have more to do with linguistics than personal preference or affection.

The Linguistic Explanation

Linguistic professor Valerie Fridland, a writer for Psychology Today, explained that babies tend to prefer oral over nasal sounds. The letter “d” is an oral sound, while “m” is nasal because air has to flow through the nose as we say it.

Due to their developing speech patterns, babies tend to favor oral sounds, thus making “dada” a more likely first word simply because it starts with an easier sound for them.

Dad and Mom Across Cultures

The variations in terms that different cultures use to refer to fathers include “dada,” “papa,” and “tata.” These words often begin with oral sounds, aligning with the natural inclination of infants. Despite the cultural differences, the commonality lies in the simplicity of these words. Yet “mama” is the same in most languages.

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This stems from the biological and emotional bond between mother and child. The noises babies make when suckling or feeding, usually resembling “mmmm,” naturally lead to this nasal sound being associated with mothers. This connection reflects the primary nurturing role mothers play.

Thoughts on Baby’s First Words

While most babies say “dada” first due to linguistic factors favoring simpler oral sounds, the word “mama” holds a deep-rooted association with motherly care and comfort across various cultures.

Understanding these linguistic patterns offers insight into early child development and highlights the profound bond between a mother and her baby, even if the first word spoken isn’t quite what parents may expect!