Nico’s general blabber has begun to clarify into a number of particular sounds. YaYaYaYa is one. But her favorite right now is this: “DaDaDaDaDA.”
My first thought was that the poor soul was very confused. If one of us were a bearded man I am sure we would be sure that she was already calling her daddy. But given that we are both curvy, not-all-that-hairy beings, I am pretty sure she isn’t a genius already able to speak.
Do you think she has Daddy envy? I asked Marta.
What are you talking about!? Marta said.
I then explained that the DaDaDaDa sound was an awful lot like saying dada or, yes, daddy.
But she’s saying TaTaTaTaTa, Marta said.
Then it was my turn to be surprised. Because I swear to you, Nico was very clearly calling for a nonexistent daddy.
Marta wasn’t surprised. She explained it had something to do with something called “voice onset time.” And then she elaborated: “You need to close your lips–or not your lips but the airflow–to pronounce an occlusive consonant, like p, t and k, and because you have to close it completely the voice onset time is the time that goes between the release of the air and the vibration of the vocal chord.”
“And what does that have to do with Nico’s daddy issues?” I asked.
Marta then showed me a bunch of vocal measurement charts online that discussed “voice onset time,” and explained that, for us English speakers the D and the T are quite different. We release a puff of air with our Ts whereas Spanish speakers don’t. Their Ds and Ts are not as different, or at least they don’t sound so different to those of us who speak English.
In other words, Marta is making the argument that Nico is pronouncing the Spanish T when she says TaTaTaTa, not the English T (or English D), which is why I have saddled her with missing daddy issues and Marta just thinks she’s talking about (according to wordreference.com) either a) her nanny, b) her little sister or, yes, c) her daddy — though only in Latin America (tata is a Latin American Spanish word for daddy, but not so in Spain).
All of which to say is that Nico could either being calling for her Mexican daddy, her English speaking daddy or her little sister or nanny. If, that is, she is really calling for anyone at all. Right now she is eating her xylophone baton so I am not sure we can trust her logic.
I couldn’t get a picture of that to prove my case, but here she is a week or so ago with the same xylophone and Finn.