Re: virus: Study: Infants start learning language in the crib

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Mon, 29 Sep 1997 14:39:22 -0700 (PDT)

On Sat, 27 Sep 1997, Dave K-P wrote:

> >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
> speech."
> >
> >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
> >objects."
> >
> >Because they have been storing these "labels" from their days in the
> cradle, >said Jusczyk, "it provides that vocabulary spurt."

This is an interesting piece of research, and I'm glad Dave K-P forwarded
it. It is line with what I have personally noted and also learned in
classes about infant language learning, with the exception of one thing
that puzzles me.

In other studies of infant language learning I have seen and read about,
it has been stated that infants will attend longer to *novel* stimuli,
that is, ones that are more interesting because they are *un*familiar. I
thus find myself furrowing my brow at this study's contrary assumption
that the sounds to which babies will attend longer are the ones they
recognize. Either the case is more complex than either assumption can
account for, or somebody is mistaken.

interrogating infants