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Annu Rev Neurosci. 2008;31:511-34. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.30.051606.094321.

Neural substrates of language acquisition.

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  • 1Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


Infants learn language(s) with apparent ease, and the tools of modern neuroscience are providing valuable information about the mechanisms that underlie this capacity. Noninvasive, safe brain technologies have now been proven feasible for use with children starting at birth. The past decade has produced an explosion in neuroscience research examining young children's processing of language at the phonetic, word, and sentence levels. At all levels of language, the neural signatures of learning can be documented at remarkably early points in development. Individual continuity in linguistic development from infants' earliest responses to phonemes is reflected in infants' language abilities in the second and third year of life, a finding with theoretical and clinical implications. Developmental neuroscience studies using language are beginning to answer questions about the origins of humans' language faculty.

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