Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Babies use their own names to help learn language


A baby’s understanding of language may begin with its own name, which a baby uses to break sentences into smaller parts so it can learn other words, according to new research by Texas A&M University psychologist Heather Bortfeld, who studies language development in infants and children.

Bortfeld’s research, which appears in the upcoming April issue of "Psychological Science," shows that babies use familiar words such as their names as a sort of "anchor" into the speech stream. A baby as young as six months can learn to recognize an individual word that follows its own name, even after hearing both words as part of whole sentences, says Bortfeld who worked with colleagues from Brown University and the University of Delaware.

"Recognition drives segmentation of the speech stream, and segmentation is a critical step in learning a language," Bortfeld explains. "We know from previous research that babies are recognizing their names in fluent speech by the age of six months, so we hypothesized that they should be able to use that recognition to segment the speech stream and recognize new words."

Much in the same way a person might have difficulty understanding a foreign language because it’s hard to tell where one word starts and another begins, babies face a similar challenge in learning language. Bortfeld’s research shows babies can begin to discern the beginnings and endings of words that follow their names, meaning their names form a foundation for learning language.

In what can be described as a "popping out" pattern, Bortfeld explains, one familiar word can allow a baby to pick out another word, and that newly familiar word may allow a baby to learn words that follow it.

Bortfeld and her colleagues tested babies by having them listen to sentences containing the pairing of one target word with the baby’s own name such as "Emma’s cup is here." The babies, Bortfeld explains, also listened to a different name paired with another word, such as "Autumn’s bike is here." After the babies were exposed to the sentences, they were only allowed to hear the target word, "cup" or "bike." The babies, Bortfeld says, preferred listening to the word that had followed their own names as opposed to the ones that had not.

To ensure a baby recognized the target word that followed its name, Bortfeld had the babies listen to the two individual target words again, this time with two new random words. In this scenario, a baby, she says, listened longer to the target word that had followed its name in the previous experiment. The baby listened to the other target word that did not follow its own name for as long as it listened to the two new random words.

"Babies appear to use highly familiar words - their names for example - to anchor their early learning of other word forms, and if their name is the first word they recognize, then we’re tapping into the process at the earliest stage possible," she explains.

Ryan Garcia | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>