Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Even before language, babies learn the world through sounds

Date:
July 12, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
It's not just the words, but the sounds of words that have meaning for us. This is true for children and adults, who can associate the strictly auditory parts of language -- vowels produced in the front or the back of the mouth, high or low pitch -- with blunt or pointy things, large or small things, fast-moving or long-staying things.

It's not just the words, but the sounds of words that have meaning for us. This is true for children and adults, who can associate the strictly auditory parts of language -- vowels produced in the front or the back of the mouth, high or low pitch -- with blunt or pointy things, large or small things, fast-moving or long-staying things.

Related Articles


Do the same principles apply for young infants, and not just to things, but also to abstractions? A new study by Marcela Peña, Jacques Mehler, and Marina Nespor, working together at the International School for Advanced Studies, in Trieste, Italy and Catholic University of Chile, says yes. For the first time ever, the researchers have demonstrated that these physical properties of speech are associated, very early in life, with abstract concepts -- in this case, larger and smaller.

The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The researchers worked with 28 four-month-old babies from Spanish-speaking homes. The babies sat on their parents' laps (the parents were visually masked) in a soundproof room, into which were piped nonsense syllables composed of consonants followed by the vowels I or O, or E or A. The babies were simultaneously shown larger and smaller versions of circles, ovals, squares, or triangles, in different colors. Using an eye tracker, experimenters recorded which object the infants looked at first and how long they gazed at each object.

In previous research, adults reared in many different languages have shown an association of I and E sounds with small objects and O and A with large ones. In this study, the babies were shown objects that were larger or smaller in comparison to one another.

From the very start and almost 100 percent of the time, the babies directed their gaze first and looked longer at the smaller objects when they heard syllables using I or E, and at the larger ones with O or A.

"We don't know if this is something we are born with or something we have to learn -- but it is a very early capacity," says Peña. She stresses that "the baby is not learning the word -- bigger, smaller, ball, triangle -- itself." Rather, she or he is "exploiting the physical properties of a sound to help categorize another [abstract] property of the environment."

Why is this important? "Early cognitive development is highly unknown. We want to understand how the infant very early in life can have a notion of the conceptual." The findings "suggest that a part of [language learning] is based on the physical property of the stimulus itself, not just on a symbolic mind."

The study gives researchers new methodologies to investigate the process of language and conceptual development -- and to look at some of the persistent questions in cognitive psychology and linguistics: "What is the nature of language? Is everything symbolic or arbitrary?" Peña asks. "Or are there particular physical aspects of learning that we exploit" to begin to make sense of a large, complex, and -- for a tiny infant -- brand-new world.

The article is entitled, "The Role of Audio-Visual Processing in Early Conceptual Development."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Even before language, babies learn the world through sounds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110711172227.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, July 12). Even before language, babies learn the world through sounds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110711172227.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Even before language, babies learn the world through sounds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110711172227.htm (accessed March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) — While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) — European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Newsy (Mar. 24, 2015) — According to a new study by the Alzheimer&apos;s Association, more than half of those who have the degenerative brain disease aren&apos;t told by their doctors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

Newsy (Mar. 23, 2015) — Researchers found those who napped for 45 minutes to an hour before being tested on information recalled it five times better than those who didn&apos;t. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins