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Psychol Sci. 2008 May;19(5):515-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02117.x.

Social feedback to infants' babbling facilitates rapid phonological learning.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. mhg26@cornell.edu

Abstract

Infants' prelinguistic vocalizations are rarely considered relevant for communicative development. As a result, there are few studies of mechanisms underlying developmental changes in prelinguistic vocal production. Here we report the first evidence that caregivers' speech to babbling infants provides crucial, real-time guidance to the development of prelinguistic vocalizations. Mothers of 9.5-month-old infants were instructed to provide models of vocal production timed to be either contingent or noncontingent on their infants' babbling. Infants given contingent feedback rapidly restructured their babbling, incorporating phonological patterns from caregivers' speech, but infants given noncontingent feedback did not. The new vocalizations of the infants in the contingent condition shared phonological form but not phonetic content with their mothers' speech. Thus, prelinguistic infants learned new vocal forms by discovering phonological patterns in their mothers' contingent speech and then generalizing from these patterns.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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