Characteristics of the rhythmic organization of vocal babbling: implications for an amodal linguistic rhythm

Infant Behav Dev. 2008 Sep;31(3):422-31. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2007.12.014. Epub 2008 Mar 4.


Vocal babbling involves production of rhythmic sequences of a mouth close-open alternation giving the perceptual impression of a sequence of consonant-vowel syllables. Petitto and co-workers have argued vocal babbling rhythm is the same as manual syllabic babbling rhythm, in that it has a frequency of 1 cycle per second. They also assert that adult speech and sign language display the same frequency. However, available evidence suggests that the vocal babbling frequency approximates 3 cycles per second. Both adult spoken language and sign language show higher frequencies than babbling in their respective modalities. No information is currently available on the basic rhythmic parameter of intercyclical variability in either modality. A study of reduplicative babbling by 4 infants and 4 adults producing reduplicated syllables confirms the 3 per second vocal babbling rate, as well as a faster rate in adults, and provides new information on intercyclical variability.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child Development / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language Development*
  • Linguistics / methods*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Periodicity*
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Time Factors