Volume 2   Number 1      Fall 2007

Voice, Vitality and Meaning: On the Shaping of the Infant's Utterances in Willing Engagement with Culture. Comment on Bertau's “On the Notion of Voice”
Maya Gratier
Université Paris X - Nanterre, France
Colwyn Trevarthen
University of Edinburgh, UK
pp. 169-181   (pdf)
ABSTRACT. The newborn human voice communicates, and a foetus learns the sound patterns of the mother's voice transmitted through her body. It is our nature to vocalise, to perceive others' vocalisations, and to learn from their messages. Bertau reviews a rich literature on the social voice and its cultivation, how projects different ways of being, and acquires different personal narrative histories through dialogic transactions in the community. In responding, we propose that the life of the voice cannot be separated from the rhythm of human life time, the 'musicality' of moving in company. Infant vocal and gestural games seek affectionate 'holding' from known others and to share adventures of experience in companionship. The mother, influenced by her special intimacy with the baby, becomes a person with several voices, and how she adapts this poly-voicedness indicates her emotional health and the quality of her relationship with her baby, her home and society. The baby too, as it grows in playfulness and self-consciousness, 'becomes' different voices. In a family, a theatre of 'voice persons' is created, which leads the child participate in the living chorus of voices in the community of work and recreation, with its rituals of activity and habits of talk.