Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Italian for beginners

23.03.2011
Little language experts: Four-month-olds can detect grammatical rules in a new language

Infants are able to learn grammatical regularities in a novel language surprisingly early and at a remarkable speed. In a study at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, researchers working with Angela Friederici showed that the brains of babies were able to learn grammatical relationships between sentence elements in less than 15 minutes and reacted to errors that broke these rules. This was investigated by playing recordings of sentences in Italian to four month old German babies and taking EEG measurements. (PlosOne, 22. 03. 2011)

The speed with which children learn languages amazes both parents and researchers. They very quickly learn new words and recognise grammatical rules which link these words in a sentence. It is a well-known fact that very young children can recognise the relationships between adjacent syllables when these frequently appear together. Grammatical rules, in contrast, often apply to elements that are separated in a sentence. Until now, it was thought that comprehension of these rules develops at approximately 18 months of age. “That seemed to be very late,” says Angela Freiderici, Director of the Department of Neuropsychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. In order to test the ability of very young children to learn such rules, Friederici and her colleagues presented sentences in a foreign language – in this case, Italian – to four month old German infants.

The sentences were specially adapted and had two grammatical constructions. One used the auxiliary verb “può” (can) and a verb with the infinitive ending “-are”, as in the sentence “Il fratello può cantare” (the brother can sing); the other contained a gerund. This was constructed with the auxiliary “sta” (is) and a verb with the ending “-ando”, as in, for example, “La sorella sta cantando” (the sister is singing).

The infants heard correct sentences constructed using these two structures in learning phases that were approximately three minutes long, followed by a short test phase. In this test phase, correct and incorrect sentences were randomly played. Incorrect sentences included an error as in “Il fratello sta cantare” (the brother is sing) or “La sorella può cantando” (the sister can singing). This was repeated four times. EEG measurements of brain activity showed that the children had learned that “può” and “-are” and “sta” and “-ando” belong together. While the processing of correct and incorrect sentences initially resulted in highly similar EEG patterns, in the fourth test phase – after a learning period of less than 15 minutes – very different activation patterns emerged.

“Naturally, at this age, infants do not notice content-related errors,” says Friederici. “Long before they comprehend meaning, babies recognize and generalize regularities from the sound of language.” The brain apparently filters out grammatical relationships from sentences it hears, and is capable of recognizing irregularities in these patterns it has learned within a very short time.

These early processes of extracting regularities from the input are an important element for later language acquisition. Interestingly, early language acquisition differs significantly from the way in which adults learn a foreign language. Adult learners rather seem to focus more on semantic relationships, that is, on the meaning of sentences.

Original Publication:
Angela D. Friederici, Jutta L. Mueller, Regine Oberecker: "Precursors to natural grammar learning: Preliminary evidence from 4-month-old infants" PlosOne, 22. 03. 2011.
Contact:
Peter Zekert, Press and Public Relations
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9940-2404
Fax: +49 341 9940-2221
Email: zekert@cbs.mpg.de
Scientific Contact
Prof. Dr. Angela D. Friederici
Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Department of Neuropsychology
Telefone: +49 341 9940-112
angelafr@cbs.mpg.de

Barbara Abrell | Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Further information:
http://www.mpg.de/591229/pressRelease20091105

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Complementing conventional antibiotics
24.05.2018 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

When corals eat plastics

24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Surgery involving ultrasound energy found to treat high blood pressure

24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering

First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR

24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>