Thursday, June 07, 2007

Infants distinguish languages by just looking at a talking face

In another example of how children have time windows of developmental plasticity and learning, Weikum et al. (PDF here) show that 4 to 6 month-old infants can discriminate languages (English from French) just from viewing silently presented articulations. By the age of 8 months, only bilingual (French-English) infants succeed at this task. This indicates that infants are prepared very early for visual language discrimination, but loose this ability once they begin to learn a single language. Through experience adults can regain this sensitivity, for they can use visual cues to discriminate between two languages if they know one of the languages.

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