Learning language before birth

Scientists find that newborns can recognize vowel sounds similar to those spoken by their parents

By Stephen Ornes, 17:01 PM January 22, 2013

A special pacifier helped researchers study how newborns respond to different vowel sounds. Scientists propose that babies start to recognize language before birth. Credit: C. Moon

New babies eat, sleep, cry, poop — and listen. But their eavesdropping begins before birth and may include language lessons, says a new study. Scientists believe such early learning may help babies quickly understand their parents.

Christine Moon is a psychologist at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. She led the new study, to be published in February. “It seems that there is some prenatal learning of speech sounds, but we do not yet know how much,” she told Science News.

A pre...

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