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Study Says Babies Understand Grammar Long Before Learning To Talk

Study suggests babies learn how words are used before they know what those words mean.

My son, Henry, is nearly 10-months-old. I talk to him a lot and it makes me wonder exactly what he gets from our one-sided conversations. Certainly he enjoys interacting with anyone, but does he actually know what I’m saying? Or hey, can he diagram my sentences?

According to Jill Lany, a psychologist at Notre Dame, Henry is on the cusp of being able to understand how grammar works even though he’s likely months from talking. As reported on i09.com Lany found that babies as young as 12 months can identify what she calls “adjacent relationships”. She says this means babies can tell what part of speech a word is by what words or phrases are near it.

Be sure to read on! Lany gives an example of what she means after the jump:

“If I were to say to you, ‘Oh look, it’s a dax,’ you might not know what a ‘dax’ is, but the cue ‘it’s a’ lets a baby know that what follows is an object. We often think about grammar coming after word-learning, but in fact, my research shows that all this information that babies are picking up in that first year of life about how words are occurring in their language, actually is supporting this process of word-learning prior to mastery of language.”

Lany says Henry will learn how words are used long before he understands what those words mean. While “It’s a dax”, something like “I’m daxing it” would indicate a verb. Lany says babies can dial in on this information within a year. “Babies are constantly looking for language clues in context and sound. My research suggests that there are some surprising clues in the sound stream that may help babies learn the meanings of words. They can distinguish different kinds of words like nouns and verbs by information in that sound stream.”

Watch more about the gift of gab among babies check out Jill Lany in the video below:

Additional Source: Notre Dame

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