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How babies gain their voices.

BABIES learn how to speak in the same way that birds learn how to sing, scientists have revealed.

In both cases more is involved than simply imitating sounds, researchers discovered.

Social interaction between offspring and parent appears to be important for infants and fledglings alike.

Previous studies have shown that many bird species use positive social feedback to learn songs.

The new research from the United States indicates that in humans, similar encouraging responses by a mother to her baby's babbling also plays a key role in speech learning.

Scientists led by psychologist Michael Goldstein at Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, studied eight-month-old infants and mothers in play sessions.

During the first part of the study, the researchers monitored how often the babies made vocal noises and how their mothers reacted to each vocalisation.

Later, the mothers' responses were manipulated.

Half the mothers were al-lowed to respond to their infants' baby noises by smiling, moving closer and touching their children.

The other half, while paying as much attention to their offspring, could not synchronise their responses with vocalisations.

After analysing recording of the babies' babbles, the researchers found that noises from the first group developed faster during the play session. Their sounds contained more syllables and faster consonant to vowel transitions than those of babies in the second group.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 3, 2003
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