virus: Study: Infants start learning language in the crib

Dave K-P (
Sat, 27 Sep 1997 10:20:13 -0400

>Study: Infants start learning language in the crib
>September 26, 1997
>Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EDT
>WASHINGTON (AP) -- A researcher who discovered that babies as young as 8
>months can hear and remember words has a word of caution for parents: "Be
>careful what you say. Little ears are listening."
>In a study published Friday in the journal Science, Peter W. Jusczyk of
Johns >Hopkins University said his research shows that babies can learn the
rhythm >and sound of words while in the cradle, and months later may spout
those words >in a "vocabulary spurt."
>Reading to infants, said Jusczyk, can start the process of learning
language, >even if the babies do not seem to understand.
>"As you are sitting there reading, the child is learning something about
sound >patterns of words," he said. "That is important because they learn
how words >are formed, and it helps them to segment sound patterns out of
>The conclusion is based on experiments in which infants listened once a
day >for 10 days to three recorded stories. Two weeks later, the babies'
>recognition of words from those stories was compared against words that
were >not in the stories. Jusczyk said it was clear the infants recognized
the story >words.
>"This is important work," said Robin S. Chapman, a language-learning
>researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "It advances the
findings >of earlier work that showed children do attend to the sounds of
language ... >and pick out those that are familiar."
>She said the studies show that "a lot of language learning is happening in
the >first year of life. It shows that parents should talk to their
children and >the children will learn about the language from that talk."
>Researchers tested word recognition
>Researchers used two lists: one with 36 words from the stories, and
another >that had similar words that were not in the stories.
>To test the word recognition, the babies were placed between two speakers,
>each topped with a light. Jusczyk said the lights would attract the
babies' >attention and then the words would be read through the speakers.
>"Earlier work showed that infants tend to look at the source of sounds
that >interest them," he said. When they lose interest, the infants tend to
look >away.
>"We found they listened significantly longer to lists of words from the
>stories," said Jusczyk. More importantly, he said, the two-week delay
between >the stories and the words proved that the babies were remembering
the sounds.
>Jusczyk said this remembering of words may help explain the "vocabulary
spurt" >most children experience at 18 to 21 months of age.
>"All of sudden they start talking with more and more words," he said. "One
>possible reason for this is that a child has remembered a number of labels
>(words), and at 18 months the child begins to associate those labels with
>Because they have been storing these "labels" from their days in the
cradle, >said Jusczyk, "it provides that vocabulary spurt."