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Babies language skills are more advanced than you think

A NEW STUDY LED BY BY CHILD LANGUAGE RESEARCHER BARBORA SKARABELA CHALLENGES IDEAS OF HOW CHILDREN LEARN LANGUAGES

New research from the University of Edinburgh found that 11-12 month-olds may recognise combinations of words such as ‘clap your hands.’ before they can speak. 

Researchers say the study is the first to provide evidence that young children can pick up and understand multiword sequences before they can talk or begin producing such combinations themselves.

“This is the first study that shows that infants extract and store more than just single words from everyday speech. This suggests that when children learn a language, they build on linguistic units of varying sizes, including multiword sequences, and not just single words as we often assume. This may explain why adults learning a second language, who tend to rely on individual words, often fall short of reaching native-like proficiency in the way they string words together into phrases and sentences.”

Dr Barbora Skarabela

The study is published in Cognition.

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem contributed to the study.

Journal article: ‘Clap your hands’ or ‘take your hands’? One-year-olds distinguish between frequent and infrequent multiword phrases | Cognition

About Barbora Skarabela

Barbora Skarabela is a child language researcher in Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is Knowledge Exchange and Impact Officer for the Lothian Birth Cohort studies.

She is also a member of Wee Science. This is a group of researchers who study how babies and children learn to think and talk.
Wee Science | Learning from kids while they play

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