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Newborns have innate skills to select words, research shows

Studies of newborns have shown that people are born with the innate skills necessary to select words from a language.

An international team of researchers discovered two mechanisms in 3-day-old children that give them the skills to choose words in the stream of sounds.

Discovery provides a key insight into the first step to learning a language.

Study published in Science developmentIt is a collaboration between scientists from SISSA in Italy, the Neurospin Center in France, the University of Liverpool and the University of Manchester. He was funded by the European Research Council.

One of the mechanisms discovered by the team is known as prosody – the melody of the language, which allows us to recognize when a word begins and ends.

And they also call language statistics, which describes how we calculate the frequency when the sounds in a word come together.

Dr. Alyssa Ferri of the University of Manchester said: "We believe that this study shows how newborn children really live and how much information they absorb."

“This is very important for new parents and gives them some insight into how their child listens to them.”

Neurospin's Dr. Ana Flo says: “The language is incredibly complex, and this study is about understanding how babies try to understand it when they first hear it.

“We often think of language as consisting of words, but words are often erased together when we speak. Therefore, one of the first steps in language learning is the choice of words.

“Our study shows that at the age of just 3 days, not understanding what it means, they can separate the words from a speech.

"And we identified two important tools with which we were almost certainly born, which give them the opportunity to do this."

The researchers played the babies with a 3 and a half minute audio clip, in which four meaningless words were buried in a stream of syllables.

Using a painless technique called near infrared spectroscopy, which emits light to the brain, they were able to measure how much was absorbed, telling them which parts of the brain were active.

Dr. Perrin Brusini of the University of Liverpool noted: “Then we forced the children to listen to certain words and found that their brains responded differently to the words they heard than to slightly different words.

“It showed that even from birth babies can choose individual words from a language.

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