Similar to this title,the world’s leading journal Science Daily has reported that “newborns are much more attuned to the sounds of their native language than first thought. In fact, these linguistic whizzes can up pick on distinctive sounds of their mother tongue while in utero, a new study has concluded.”
It s report is as follows:
- Research led by Christine Moon, a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University, shows that infants, only hours old showed marked interest for the vowels of a language that was not their mother tongue.
- “We have known for over 30 years that we begin learning prenatally about voices by listening to the sound of our mother talking,” Moon said. “This is the first study that shows we learn about the particular speech sounds of our mother’s language before we are born.”
- Before the study, the general consensus was that infants learned about the small parts of speech, the vowels and the consonants, postnatally. Moon added. “This study moves the measurable result of experience with individual speech sounds from six months of age to before birth,” she said. The findings will be published in Acta Paediatricain late December.
- For the study Moon tested newborn infants shortly after birth while still in the hospital in two different locations: Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., and in the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Stockholm. Infants heard either Swedish or English vowels and they could control how many times they heard the vowels by sucking on a pacifier connected to a computer.
- Co-authors for the study were. Hugo Lagercrantz, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden as well as a member of the Nobel Assembly, and Patricia Kuhl, Endowed Chair for the Bezos Family Foundation for Early Childhood Learning and Co-Director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.
- The study tested newborns on two sets of vowel sounds — 17 native language sounds and 17 foreign language sounds, said Kuhl. The researchers tested the babies’ interest in the vowel sounds based on how long and often they sucked on a pacifier. Half of the infants heard their native language vowels, and the other half heard the foreign vowels. “Each suck will produce a vowel until the infant pauses, and then the new suck will produce the next vowel sound,” said Kuhl.
- In both countries, the babies listening to the foreign vowels sucked more, than those listening to their native tongue regardless of how much postnatal experience they had. This indicated to researchers that they were learning the vowel sounds in utero.
- “These little ones had been listening to their mother’s voice in the womb, and particularly her vowels for ten weeks. The mother has first dibs on influencing the child’s brain,” said Kuhl. “At birth, they are apparently ready for something novel.”