Babies Learn Word Patterns By Listening

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SOUTH BEND, Ind., Dec. 9 (UPI) — Babies are highly attuned to communication and motivated to interact — and they’re great listeners, U.S. researchers say.

Psychologists at the University of Notre Dame say during the first year of life, when babies spend much time listening to language, they’re actually tracking word patterns that will support the process of word-learning that occurs between the ages of about 18 months and 2 years.

“Babies are constantly looking for language clues in context and sound,” Jill Lany, assistant professor of psychology, said in a university release Friday.

“My research suggests that there are some surprising clues in the sound stream that may help babies learn the meanings of words,” she said. “They can distinguish different kinds of words like nouns and verbs by information in that sound stream.”

Babies as young as 12 months can identify “adjacent relationships” in which a phrase or sound like “it’s a” occurs immediately before an object, she said.

“If I were to say to you, ‘Oh look, it’s a dax,’ you might not know what a ‘dax’ is but the cue ‘it’s a’ let’s a baby know that what follows is an object,” Lany said.

And if a person says “I’m daxing it,” the same principal of cues and word patterns would indicate a verb or action word, she said, and babies use these patterns as clues to the meanings of new words they are learning.

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