Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The roots of grammar: New study shows children innately prepared to learn language

06.06.2007
To learn a language, a child must learn a set of all-purpose rules, such as “a sentence can be formed by combining a subject, a verb and an object” that can be used in an infinite number of ways. A new study shows that by the age of seven months, human infants are on the lookout for abstract rules – and that they know the best place to look for such abstractions is in human speech.

In a series of experiments appearing in the May issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Gary Marcus and co-authors Keith Fernandes and Scott Johnson at New York University exposed infants to abstractly structured sequences that consisted of either speech syllables or nonspeech sounds.

Once infants became familiar with these sequences, Marcus and his colleagues presented the infants four new unique sequences: Two of these new sequences were consistent with the familiarization “grammar,” while two were inconsistent. For example, given familiarization with la ta ta, ge lai lai, consistent test sentences would include wo fe fe and de ko ko (ABB), while inconsistent sentences would include wo wo fe and de de ko (AAB). They then measured how long infants attended to each sequence in order to determine whether they recognized the previously learned grammar.

In the first two experiments, the researchers examined infants’ rule learning using sequences of tones, sung syllables, musical instruments of varying timbres and animal noises.

Across both experiments, infants were able to identify rules only when exposed to speech sequences (versus nonspeech sequences). These findings are significant, says Marcus, because “the essence of language is learning rules, and these results suggest that young infants are specifically prepared to learn these rules from speech.”

In a third experiment, the researchers discovered another intriguing result: Infants were able to generalize rules learned from speech to the sequences of nonspeech sounds, even though they couldn’t directly learn rules from the nonspeech stimuli. Infants were again familiarized with structured sequences of speech and then tested on their ability to recognize those same structures in sequences of tones, timbres, and animal sounds. Infants who received this pre-exposure to structured sequences of speech were able to recognize these same structures in the nonlinguistic stimuli. This shows, according to Marcus, that “infants’ drive to understand the abstract patterns underlying speech must be much stronger than their pull towards understanding abstraction in other domains.”

“Infants may analyze speech more deeply than other signals because it is highly familiar or highly salient, because it is produced by humans, because it is inherently capable of bearing meaning, or because it bears some not-yet-identified acoustic property that draws the attention of the rule-induction system,” writes Marcus.

“Regardless, from birth, infants prefer listening to speech,” he continues, “and the intriguing patterns we have observed in rule learning and transfer could in some way be an extension of that initial, profound interest in speech.”

Catherine West | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

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: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>