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Infants and Language: Fascinating

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by TrudyRN TrudyRN (Member)

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  • infants have 'amazing capabilities' that adults lack

[color=#003399]robin lloyd

livescience senior editor

[color=#003399]livescience.com fri may 25, 2:25 am et

babies might seem a bit dim in their first six months of life, but researchers are getting smarter about what babies know, and the results are surprising.

the word "infant" comes from the latin, meaning "unable to speak," but [color=#003399]babies are building the foundations for babbling and language before they are born, responding to muffled sounds that travel through amniotic fluid.

soon after birth, infants are keen and sophisticated generalists, capable of seeing details in the world that are visible to some other animals but invisible to adults, older children and even slightly older infants.

recently, scientists have learned the following:

  • at a few days old, infants can pick out their native tongue from a foreign one.
  • infants are [color=#003399]rhythm experts, capable of differentiating between the beats of their culture and another.

the latest finding, presented in the may 25 issue of the journal science, is that infants just 4 months old can tell whether someone is speaking in their native tongue or not without any sound, just by watching a silent movie of their speech. this ability disappears by the age of 8 months, however, unless the child grows up in a bilingual environment and therefore needs to use the skill.


  • and we thought they were just cute!

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crissrn27 has 8 years experience as a RN and specializes in nursery, L and D.

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classicdame is a MSN, EdD and specializes in Hospital Education Coordinator.

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I gave my daughter "Baby Signs", a book about teaching infants certain concepts in sign language (not the entire language). The book was written by nurses who ran a day care for deaf children. They noticed that siblings and friends of the deaf children learned sign language and were able to communicate faster with less frustration. My granddaughter could tell you at 6 months if she was hungry or sleepy or wanted her Mommy. At 12 months she could argue in sign! We went to an aquarium. My daughter made a sign for "birds" to indicate the penquins were birds. But when they dove into the water the baby signed "No", "Mommy" "Fish". We still laugh about that.

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