Revealed: How babies pick up words
Babies recognise human language because they are born with the basic, foundational knowledge about the sound pattern of human languages, a study shows.
"The results suggest that the sound patterns of human languages are the product of an inborn biological instinct, very much like birdsong," said professor Iris Berent from Northeastern University in Boston.
For the study, the researchers looked at how young babies perceive different types of words.
They used near-infrared spectroscopy, a silent and non-invasive technique that tells us how the oxygenation of the brain cortex (those very first centimeters of gray matter just below the scalp) changes in time, to look at the brain reactions of babies when listening to different sound patterns.
The researchers observed that that newborns react differently to good and bad word candidates, similar to what adults do.
"Young infants have not learned any words yet, they do not even babble yet, and still they share with us a sense of how words should sound," the study said.
So our babies can come to the world with the certainty that they will readily recognise the sound patterns of words-no matter the language they will grow up with, it concluded.
The research appeared in the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.
(Posted on 09-04-2014)