Saturday, July 24, 2004

Babies think before they speak

"The distinction between a tight fit versus a loose fit is marked in Korean but not in English. A cap on a pen would be a tight fit relationship, while a pen [in a shoe box] would be a loose fit relationship. English does not mark this distinction in the same way"
Yet 5-month old babies of both English-speaking and Korean-speaking parents notice the distinction, apparently indicating that we are born knowing how to make and see such a distinction but that English speakers learn to ignore it as they grow up.

As summarized by
"'Adults were glossing over the distinction that the babies were actually detecting,' said co-author Sue Hespos, an assistant professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University.

'These findings suggest that humans possess a rich set of concepts before we learn language,' added co-author Elizabeth Spelke, a professor of psychology at Harvard University. 'Learning a particular language may lead us to favor some of the these concepts over others, but the concepts already existed before we put them into words.'"

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