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 Tenn.
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.”