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Born with a love of speech

eir speech analogue and non-sense words? If they showed a similar preference for the low-frequency non-sense words over the speech analogues it would indicate that they could have developed the preference in their mother's uterus

When Dr. Vouloumanos' tested 16 neonates with just the low frequency sounds the infants showed no preferences.

"We established that the low-pass filter signals weren't distinguishable to the neonates. The low frequency sounds that we used in our study didn't have enough information for the neonates to tell them apart," says Dr. Vouloumanos of the unpublished results. "From that I conclude tentatively that this preference for speech that we observe might be independent of prenatal experience. It's something that's more built-in."

As excited as she is about the results, Dr. Vouloumanos, says that the findings raise as many questions as they answer. Given the similarity between the speech and speech analogues, the $64, 000 question is what is exactly about speech to which newborns are so drawn?

Says Dr. Vouloumanos: "There's something about speech that infants will orient towards, but we don't yet know what it is. What are the aspects of the speech stimulus have we taken away in making our non-speech sounds?"


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Source:Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council


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