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Toddlers Don't Seem to Listen to Own Voices to Correct Speech

FRIDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Unlike adults and older children, toddlers do not listen to the sound of their voice to correct their speech, a new study finds.

Researchers had adults and 4-year-old and 2-year-old children say the word "bed" repeatedly while simultaneously hearing themselves say the word "bad."

This contradiction caused the adults and 4-year-olds to change the way they said "bed" to something more like the word "bid." However, the 2-year-olds kept saying "bed," the investigators found.

The findings, published online Dec. 22 in the journal Current Biology, suggest that toddlers use a different strategy to control their speech.

For example, they may rely on their parents or other people to monitor how they speak, study author Ewen MacDonald, of the Technical University of Denmark, noted in a journal news release.

MacDonald pointed out that parents and other caregivers often repeat back to young children what they've heard them say.

"As they play music, violinists will listen to the notes they produce to ensure they are in tune. If they aren't, they will adjust the position of their fingers to bring the notes back in tune," MacDonald said in the news release.

"When we speak, we do something very similar. We subconsciously listen to vowel and consonant sounds in our speech to ensure we are producing them correctly. If the acoustics of our speech are slightly different from what we intended, then, like the violinists, we will adjust the way we speak to correct for these slight errors," MacDonald explained. "In our study, we found that 4-year-olds monitor their own speech in the same way as adults. Surprisingly, 2-year-olds do not."

More information

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association outlines activities to encourage children's speech and language development.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Current Biology, news release, Dec. 22, 2011

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