Navigation Links
Bilingual babies: The roots of bilingualism in newborns

It may not be obvious, but hearing two languages regularly during pregnancy puts infants on the road to bilingualism by birth. According to new findings in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, infants born to bilingual mothers (who spoke both languages regularly during pregnancy) exhibit different language preferences than infants born to mothers speaking only one language.

Psychological scientists Krista Byers-Heinlein and Janet F. Werker from the University of British Columbia along with Tracey Burns of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in France wanted to investigate language preference and discrimination in newborns. Two groups of newborns were tested in these experiments: English monolinguals (whose mothers spoke only English during pregnancy) and Tagalog-English bilinguals (whose mothers spoke both Tagalog, a language spoken in the Philippines, and English regularly during pregnancy). The researchers employed a method known as "high-amplitude sucking-preference procedure" to study the infants' language preferences. This method capitalizes on the newborns' sucking reflex increased sucking indicates interest in a stimulus. In the first experiment, infants heard 10 minutes of speech, with every minute alternating between English and Tagalog.

Results showed that English monolingual infants were more interested in English than Tagalog they exhibited increased sucking behavior when they heard English than when they heard Tagalog being spoken. However, bilingual infants had an equal preference for both English and Tagalog. These results suggest that prenatal bilingual exposure may affect infants' language preferences, preparing bilingual infants to listen to and learn about both of their native languages.

To learn two languages, bilingual newborns must also be able to keep their languages apart. To test if bilingual infants are able to discriminate between their two languages, infants listened to sentences being spoken in one of the languages until they lost interest. Then, they either heard sentences in the other language or heard sentences in the same language, but spoken by a different person. Infants exhibited increased sucking when they heard the other language being spoken. Their sucking did not increase if they heard additional sentences in the same language. These results suggest that bilingual infants, along with monolingual infants, are able to discriminate between the two languages, providing a mechanism from the first moments of life that helps ensure bilingual infants do not confuse their two languages.

The researchers observe that, "Monolingual newborns' preference for their single native language directs listening attention to that language" and that, "Bilingual newborns' interest in both languages helps ensure attention to, and hence further learning about, each of their languages." Discrimination of the two languages helps prevent confusion. The results of these studies demonstrate that the roots of bilingualism run deeper than previously imagined, extending even to the prenatal period.


Contact: Barbara Isanski
Association for Psychological Science

Related biology news :

1. Breathless babies: Preemies lung function shows prolonged impairment
2. Dung of the devil plant roots point to new swine flu drugs
3. Unique winter-hardy hibiscus has roots with AgriLife Research scientist in Vernon
4. Newly discovered snow roots are evolutionary phenomenon
5. Bolivian rainforest study suggests feeding behavior in monkeys and humans have ancient, shared roots
6. LabRoots Launches Social Networking Site for Scientists & Engineers
7. Historical increase in corn yield -- its in the roots
8. UV-B light sensing mechanism discovered in plant roots
9. Baby talk: The roots of the early vocabulary in infants learning from speech
10. The emerging story of plant roots
11. UC biology prof traces his roots to the first Earth Day
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/10/2015)... LONDON , Nov. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... segmented on the basis of product, type, ... segments included in this report are consumables, ... this report are safety biomarkers, efficacy biomarkers, ... in this report are diagnostics development, drug ...
(Date:11/9/2015)... , Nov. 9, 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: ... solutions, today announced broader entry into the automotive market ... that match the pace of consumer electronics human interface ... sensors are ideal for the automotive industry and will ... Europe , Japan ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... MINNETONKA, Minn. , Oct. 29, 2015   ... that supports the entire spectrum of clinical research, is ... the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) as one of ... in the "Software – Small and Growing" category. The ... and individuals who have shown superior technology innovation and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... in New York on Wednesday, December 2 ... Torley , president and CEO, will provide a corporate overview. ... York at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT . ... relations, will provide a corporate overview. --> th ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Inc., a worldwide provider of clinical research services headquartered in ... has set a new quarterly earnings record in Q3 of 2015.  ... Q3 of 2014 to Q3 of 2015.   ... the establishment of an Asia-Pacific office to ... and Mexico , with the establishment ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 --> ... report released by Transparency Market Research, the global non-invasive ... CAGR of 17.5% during the period between 2014 and ... Global Industry Analysis, Size, Volume, Share, Growth, Trends and ... testing market to reach a valuation of US$2.38 bn ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... , ... InSphero AG, the leading supplier of easy-to-use solutions for production, culture, ... serve as Chief Operating Officer. , Having joined InSphero in November 2013 ... was promoted to Head of InSphero Diagnostics in 2014. There she has built ...
Breaking Biology Technology: