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Dev Sci. 2008 Jan;11(1):1-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00652.x.

Preference for language in early infancy: the human language bias is not speech specific.

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Department of Psychology, University of Washington, USA.


Fundamental to infants' acquisition of their native language is an inherent interest in the language spoken around them over non-linguistic environmental sounds. The following studies explored whether the bias for linguistic signals in hearing infants is specific to speech, or reflects a general bias for all human language, spoken and signed. Results indicate that 6-month-old infants prefer an unfamiliar, visual-gestural language (American Sign Language) over non-linguistic pantomime, but 10-month-olds do not. These data provide evidence against a speech-specific bias in early infancy and provide insights into those properties of human languages that may underlie this language-general attentional bias.

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