Language learning in infants; Researchers find out how they interpret acoustic differences between words

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Learning a language is a natural process that babies are born with. They are able to learn it by being exposed to the world around them. Indeed, being able to hear and understand the world around them helps them develop their skills.

Infants may take a few years to speak, but they begin to recognize sounds soon after birth. This makes them become language-specific listeners.

Researchers are now trying to determine how babies learn language by identifying its different acoustic characteristics, known as contrastives. For example, in English, the letters “b” and “d” are contrasting because changing the letters from “ball” to “doll” creates a new word.

A recent study by two computational linguists from the University of Maryland found that contrastive features can help babies learn to identify sounds in their first language. This discovery is very important because it allows us to understand how babies learn.

The researchers noted that babies’ ability to identify the difference between uncontrasted and contrasted sounds may stem from the context to which they are exposed.

For a long time it was believed that there were various differences between contrasting and non-contrasting sounds. For example, in Japanese, long and short vowels are pronounced differently in careful speech. However, in more natural environments, contrastive and non-contrast acoustic characteristics are more ambiguous.

The researchers then collected speech patterns in different contexts and created plots putting the vowel durations in each context. In French, these vowel duration diagrams were similar in all contexts.

According to Hitczenko, a postdoctoral researcher at the Laboratory of Cognitive Sciences and Psycholinguistics at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, babies can identify the difference between non-contrast and contrasting sounds depending on the context to which they are exposed. They tested their theory by comparing data collected in different contexts, such as Japanese, French and Dutch.

The results of the study revealed that babies are able to identify the difference between uncontrasted and contrasted sounds when exposed to the context presented to them. According to study co-author Naomi Feldman, a linguistics professor, the findings support an understanding of how babies learn language.

According to study co-author Naomi Feldman, the findings support an understanding of how babies learn language. She also noted that the signal they studied can be generalized to other types of contrasts.

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