Send to

Choose Destination
Infant Behav Dev. 2009 Jan;32(1):59-71. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2008.10.002. Epub 2008 Dec 5.

Fetal sensitivity to properties of maternal speech and language.

Author information

Queen's University, 92 Barrie Street, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


Fetal speech and language abilities were examined in 104 low-risk fetuses at 33-41 weeks gestational age using a familiarization/novelty paradigm. Fetuses were familiarized with a tape recording of either their mother or a female stranger reading the same passage and subsequently presented with a novel speaker or language: Studies (1) & (2) the alternate voice, (3) the father's voice, and (4) a female stranger speaking in native English or a foreign language (Mandarin); heart rate was recorded continuously. Data analyses revealed a novelty response to the mother's voice and a novel foreign language. An offset response was observed following termination of the father's and a female stranger's voice. These findings provide evidence of fetal attention, memory, and learning of voices and language, indicating that newborn speech/language abilities have their origins before birth. They suggest that neural networks sensitive to properties of the mother's voice and native-language speech are being formed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center