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Which word can I use to describe random nonsense sounds like 'aaaa', 'papa' etc. from a child who still cannot speak.

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4 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Two words are generally used to describe baby talk (the definitions are from Chambers):

  • Prattle — "(of a young child) to utter baby-talk"
  • Babble — "to speak like a baby"
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+1 You could include links to corresponding entries from Chambers online as well, for completeness. –  Kris May 15 '12 at 16:59
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Though "prattle" is usually used to mean "chatter" and isn't common as a technical term, I don't think. –  Neil Coffey May 15 '12 at 18:49
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For sounds like 'aaaa,' I would say cooing.

Sounds like 'mama,' I would say babbling.

I would probably avoid prattling because it is also used to mean annoying, incessant talking.

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Agree that "prattle" tends to be used in reference to chatty adults. –  Bill Lefurgy May 21 '12 at 23:57
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Babble fits your description. It can be used as a noun or verb.

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@RegDwight - thanks for changing the backticks for italics. Just for future reference, is there a standard to follow as far as which one to use when? –  dj18 May 15 '12 at 14:35
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If the baby is repeating sounds then it's echolalia.
Only tangetially related to your question I know, but I like the word.

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interesting. I only knew this word as related to the disorder. –  Karl May 16 '12 at 5:08
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