Babies like to repeat

New research has shed light on how babies begin to learn speech
Repetition is central to how babies learn to talk, according to research from Canada.

A study from the University of BC (UBC) has found that people's brains are hard-wired from birth to notice repetition.

This would explain why the first words that infants learn are often "mama" or "dada", as both feature repetition.

"We know babies are really efficient language learners . . . that they're really good at sounds, but we had no idea," Judit Gervain, a post-doctoral fellow at the university, told the newspaper.

"We found that, quite amazingly, newborns were already reacting to words that have a repetition in them."

The research was carried out by playing a recording of made-up words and studying brain activity in 44 babies aged one to three days old.

Words that finished in repeated syllables, like "mubaba" or "penana", registered a lot of activity in the language centre of the brain, whereas words without adjacent repetitions, like "bamuba" or "napena", or words without any repetitions at all, did not cause any response.

Ms Gervain also thought that babies may begin responding to language even earlier.

She said: "Some areas that will later respond to language actually start responding at birth or even before birth."

The full study is to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

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