This Chart of a Baby’s First 100 Words Explains a Lot About How We Learn Language

By
Image
Photo: Yuri Arcurs YAP/Getty Images

We tend to think of a baby’s first word as a dividing point, marking the end of one phase and the beginning of another: They’re not talking yet, and then, with a single mama or dada, they are. But as Science of Us has previously reported, the divide between a preverbal kid and a verbal one isn’t nearly so clean: Long before they utter a word, babies’ brains are hard at work, paying close attention to all the words around them, and sorting those words into categories.

Which means that once the debut word is out there in the world, the others will often start to come fast and furious soon thereafter. Take a look at this chart, posted on Imgur by a parent who’s cataloged all the first words their son has uttered since the very first one at around 8 months old, up until the 100th word at 20 months old:

Image
Photo: jonjiv

By the looks of things, this particular kid followed a fairly typical pattern — most kids learn mama and/or dada before almost any other word, in part because the repetitive syllables are easier for a nearly brand-new brain to process. It also looks like he was pretty heavy on the nouns over other parts of speech: In the earliest years, the vocabularies of children born into English-speaking families also generally skew heavily toward nouns (though this isn’t necessarily the case in other languages — in Mandarin, for example, kids learn verbs and nouns at a roughly equal rate, as Scientific American has explained). And while this is a less scientific observation, it also appears that this little guy is also living a pretty charmed life: When you’re fewer than 20 words in and you’ve already mastered kitty, bubbles, and cheese, that’s a sign that you’ve had some pretty good times.

A Chart of a Kid’s First 100 Words Shows How We Learn Speech