A child’s first words are a major milestone, but not every parent should expect to hear “mommy” or “daddy” right away. New research finds kids are likely to learn a little bit of “this” and “that” when speaking for the first time. Researchers from Cornell University found these words are just as common for young children to say early on as the iconic “mama.”
Words that help direct caregivers’ attention are usually among the first children begin to use and understand frequently, according to the study. This project is the largest ever, according to sample size, of early vocabulary development in an Indigenous language.
Moreover, according to Amalia Skilton, a linguistics scholar and Klarman Fellow in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), the utterance of words like “this” and “that” by very young children has been documented across a number of widely spoken languages including English, Spanish, and Mandarin. Notably, all three of those languages have a rather simple system for demonstratives.