Showing posts from May, 2007

Infant intelligence

Weikum's study adds to mounting evidence showing how infants move from being "universal perceivers," equally capable of learning any of the world's languages, to being specialists in the sounds, meanings and structure of their own native tongue over the first year of life, said Hollich, who studies infant language.

The findings raise questions about what is meant by intelligence when speaking of young children.

"Newborns can be said to be 'intelligent' in that they have the ability to almost effortlessly learn any of the world's languages," Hollich told LiveScience. Some of Hollich's research shows that babies start to understand grammar by the age of 15 months, processing grammar and words simultaneously.

"We scientists consider infants more intelligent when they begin to notice and respond to familiar things. Of course, figuring out how exactly to best respond to familiar sights and sounds is something children will spend the rest of the…

Astounding babies

The new study involved showing videos to 36 infants of three bilingual French-English speakers reciting sentences. After being trained to become comfortable with a speaker reciting a sentence in one language, babies ages 4 and 6 months spent more time looking at a speaker reciting a sentence in a different language—demonstrating that they could tell the difference.

"In everything that we do in our research, babies seem to come out with these amazing capabilities," said Whitney M. Weikum, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia whose work is overseen by language processing specialist Janet F. Werker. "As young infants, they come set with abilities to make a lot of fine discriminations, and they continue to astound us."

The research also serves as a reminder that language is a multimedia experience, said psychologist George Hollich of Purdue University.

"We don't just see a rose," Hollich explained. "We feel the softness of its petals…

Infants Have 'Amazing Capabilities' That Adults Lack- (I)

Babies might seem a bit dim in their first six months of life, but researchers are getting smarter about what babies know, and the results are surprising.

The word "infant" comes from the Latin, meaning "unable to speak," but babies are building the foundations for babbling and language before they are born, responding to muffled sounds that travel through amniotic fluid.

Soon after birth, infants are keen and sophisticated generalists, capable of seeing details in the world that are visible to some other animals but invisible to adults, older children and even slightly older infants.

Recently, scientists have learned the following:

* At a few days old, infants can pick out their native tongue from a foreign one.
* At 4 or 5 months, infants can lip read, matching faces on silent videos to "ee" and "ah" sounds.
* Infants can recognize the consonants and vowels of all languages on Earth, and they can hear the difference between foreign langu…