Italy: newborn babies can pick out words

08 March 2019

Babies are born with the innate skills they need to pick out words from language, scientists say.

Hearing Baby iStock

The study, published in Developmental Science, identified two mechanisms in three-day-old infants that give them the skills to pick out words in a stream of sounds.

One is known as prosody – the melody of language, which allows us to recognise when a word starts and stops. And another is the statistics of language, which describes how we compute the frequency of when sounds in a word come together.

Dr Alissa Ferry of the University of Manchester, co-author of the study, said: ‘We think this study highlights how sentient newborn babies really are, and how much information they are absorbing. That’s quite important for new parents and gives them some insight into how their baby is listening to them.’

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