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Babies Begin Learning Language In the Womb

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the no-time-like-the-present dept.

Medicine 250

Hugh Pickens writes "Science Daily reports findings from a new study which suggest that infants begin picking up elements of what will be their first language in the womb, long before their first babble or coo, and are able to memorize sounds from the external world by the last trimester of pregnancy, with a particular sensitivity to melody contour in both music and language. Newborns prefer their mother's voice over other voices and perceive the emotional content of messages conveyed via intonation contours in maternal speech (a.k.a. 'motherese'). 'The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human neonates capable of producing different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for the ambient language they have heard during their fetal life, within the last trimester of gestation,' said Kathleen Wermke of the University of Würzburg in Germany. Wermke's team recorded and analyzed the cries of 60 healthy newborns, 30 born into French-speaking families and 30 born into German-speaking families, when they were three to five days old. The recordings of 2,500 cries as mothers changed babies' diapers, readied babies for feeding or otherwise interacted with the youngsters show an extremely early impact of native language, with analysis revealing clear differences in the shape of the newborns' cry melodies, based on their mother tongue."

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250 comments

Genetics (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30015654)

How do we know that genetics didn't play a role in the formation of their vocal cords, changing the way they utter their first cry?

Re:Genetics (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015668)

In a way that correlates nicely with their parents' native language? Are you asserting that one's native language is also genetically determined?

Re:Genetics (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30015752)

Not at all, but we may as well assert that a baby has some sort of choice in the color of their skin because they want their mother to have a higher chance of bonding with them.

There are inherent differences in the way different races develop (dark skinned people with higher chances of skin cancer, eastern-Asians with lower average height than Europeans, etc). I just think it's silly to say that because the baby cries tended to correlate to characteristics of the mother language that they are learning basic language traits from the womb.

I'm not saying that it isn't happening, I just think it's something worth more study.

Re:Genetics (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30015810)

I wonder what the pro abortionists will make of this study?
Try to ban its publication, no doubt...

Re:Genetics (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016150)

Except most "pro abortionists" still don't agree with terminating a pregnancy THAT late. The sane ones only think abortion is okay if it's done before the brain develops in the first trimester.

Re:Genetics (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016624)

Unfortunately, sanity is pretty rare in that crowd. You can tell, because the arguments used to support abortions of convenience are sociopathic, to put it nicely.

Re:Genetics (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016240)

actually, all the more reason to abort babies :-)

Re:Genetics (4, Insightful)

Phroggy (441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015788)

This study doesn't show it, but there are ways of testing for that. For example, I know someone who was born in China and adopted by American parents. Genetically she's 100% Chinese, but culturally 100% American. Now, let's say she marries a guy who's also genetically Chinese but speaks English, and they have kids. Their children will not be exposed to Chinese language prior to birth. I would expect that the babies, while genetically 100% Chinese, will cry like Americans (insert joke here).

Re:Genetics (5, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016586)

I have had exposure to this situation. My wife and her family are native Cantonese speakers but live in an English speaking country. In her brothers family there was a huge fight over whether their two kids would be raised as Cantonese or Mandarin speakers (their mother speaks Mandarin).

When I went to their place the kids would approach me and ask me to take them to the park, speaking in broken English. So I would take them out and as soon as we got out of earshot their English would become perfect and they would explode with conversation. More recently their mother took her daughter to swimming lessons. She apologised to the teacher about the poor state of her childs English. After the lesson the teacher told her that actually there is nothing wrong with that girls english.

Children soak up the language which is being used around them, regardless of their parents origin, native language or what is being used in the home. If a western family moved to Japan and hardly let the kids out of the house the kids would still become perfect Japanese speakers. I don't think genes have anything to do with it.

But the children often hide their language ability from their parents. They don't want their parents to feel bad about their children learning from sources outside the home.

Re:Genetics (5, Informative)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016690)

Actually I will unconsciously start speaking in broken English if Im around other people who do it for long enough... so I dont think thats a phenomenon limited to childhood.

Re:Genetics (5, Funny)

arminw (717974) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016806)

...Actually I will unconsciously start speaking in broken English...

I once consciously spoke in broken English, while visiting Germany, even though I can speak German without any accent. The reason was that I wanted to get out of a traffic ticket and it worked.

Re:Genetics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016644)

And if that person you know could try these kids out with chopsticks and see if they have an edge Larry David wants to know..

Re:Genetics (2, Insightful)

Emerssso (865009) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016148)

Because vocal fold size determines a range of pitches available to the speaker, whereas phrase-level tone contours are language based and proportionate/relative. You can't genetically determine that any more than you can other aspects of a language's lexicon.

Isn't this child abuse? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30015658)

Surely teaching languages like French and German to poor, defenseless, not even yet born babies breaks some law.

Re:Isn't this child abuse? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30015862)

>>Surely teaching languages like French and German to poor, defenseless, not even yet born babies breaks some law.

Duh, they're *fetuses*, and so it's against the law to treat them as anything but undifferentiated masses of cells.

Hell, our glorious leader was the only guy in Illinois to vote for POST-birth abortions.

Re:Isn't this child abuse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30015936)

I don't see a problem with this. I personally support legalizing abortion well into the 80th trimester.

Re:Isn't this child abuse? (0, Flamebait)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016292)

Nah, the Republicans fully support post-birth abortions, and in record numbers.

<sarcasm>There's nothing wrong with frying an innocent man, just as long as you don't kill an undifferentiated bundle of cells that might become a man. Taking the life of a fully-grown adult convicted of a serious crime is perfectly fine... even in states like Texas with a long history of false convictions, cases overturned *after* executions due to DNA evidence that the state deliberately barred that would have cleared the defendants, etc.</sarcasm>

Anyone who chooses a Republican who supports capital punishment over a Democrat merely because of the Democrat's support for abortion needs to seriously rethink his or her values.

Domestic violence (0, Troll)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016076)

It should be. Or conspiracy to set the stage for domestic violence, or something.

Consider this morning. I was sitting on the walkway and a police officer walked up to chat for a while. He commented that two of the other guys on the street ended up in jail last night because of a fight. One of the guys had kicked his girlfriend and the other guy, playing Cpt. Save-a-ho, decided to jump in to do something over it. I am unclear as to whether or not the lady ended up in jail as well.

My analysis was this. When ladies become bored they begin talking. It's babylonian. It does not even matter what they talk about. When ladies become bored they begin talking. Her boyfriend puts up with this for a while but, after several days (months, years, decades) of drinking his tolerance for mindless babble has slowly decreased. So at some point he tells her to shut up. She does... for a little while. But ladies become bored and then they start talking. It does not even matter what they talk about. When ladies become bored they begin talking. Then her boyfriend begins drinking more rapidly and eventually tells her to shut up again. She puts up with it for a while but, at some point, she will begin to argue about why she should shut up. The point of view of the male is that he doesn't need to babble endlessly (though drunks most often do--and that's my largest annoyance with being homeless is that most other homeless men are drunks whose brains operate like women: they constantly need to be running their mouths about something, anything, whateverthing). The point of view of the female is that she's bored so why shouldn't she be able to talk about something.

So boyfriend eventually becomes upset enough to hit girlfriend in the shoulder--like a guy slugging another guy in the shoulder to emphasize the point of "shut up". Women, through the media and popular culture, have cultured the "Cpt. Save-a-Ho" mentality in naive and easily manipulated males... so male number two decides that the boyfriend is out of line and jumps in to the rescue. Males end up in fight and hauled off by police... female is entertained just as much as if she had someone who would actually listen to her endlessly babbling and talking.

So... all of that in consideration... babies learning mommy's language in the womb is just a side effect of being constantly exposed to mommy when she becomes bored and feels the need to begin talking endlessly about something, anything.

What makes this something of aggravated assault is that the baby has no way of saying,"Look, lady, shut the bleep-bleep-bleep up for once!" Maybe that is why gestation is nine months long. Nine months of listening to someone else endlessly run their mouth is the absolute maximum that anyone is able to psychologically deal with.

That is a whole new perspective on premature birth.

Re:Domestic violence (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016162)

Blame the victim.

When homosexual homeless men become bored they begin writing. It's babylonian. It does not even matter what they write about. When homosexual homeless men become bored they begin writing.

Re:Domestic violence (2, Funny)

lilomar (1072448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016466)

Troll? Yes.
But - There is a certain poetic rhythm to the post.

When ladies become bored they begin talking.
It's babylonian. It does not even matter what they talk about.
When ladies become bored they begin talking.

It's sad when a potential artist turns to the dark side.

Dramatic Findings (2, Interesting)

Phroggy (441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015676)

I'm glad we have scientific evidence to back it up, but did anyone believe this wasn't the case? Is anybody surprised by these findings?

Re:Dramatic Findings (4, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015768)

In hindsight, all scientific findings are "obvious" and "just common sense". What people forget to mention is that before the finding, there were about 200 competing, equally obvious and common sense based theories on what was happening.

Re:Dramatic Findings (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016020)

In hindsight, all scientific findings are "obvious" and "just common sense". What people forget to mention is that before the finding, there were about 200 competing, equally obvious and common sense based theories on what was happening.

OK, but in this case... were there really 200 competing theories? I thought this was generally assumed (if not proven), going back a couple of decades?

Re:Dramatic Findings (2, Insightful)

Emerssso (865009) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016192)

Assumed by some child language acquisition specialists, yes. Assumed by the ones who are scientific about their research, probably not.

As I understand it, we have a fair amount of information about children responding to other phonetic and phonological aspects of the language(s) spoken around them, but there hasn't been any other research on prenatal language acquisition.

Re:Dramatic Findings (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016384)

Read some Thomas Kuhn - most of what scientists do is "mopping up" - making SURE that the things we THINK are true, really ARE true. Most scientists are not out there looking to discover the unexpected.

Re:Dramatic Findings (1)

Main Gauche (881147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016588)

Except in this case, there was already theory and evidence. See citations here [google.com] .

OP is right; this is not novel, but merely adds to existing evidence.

And another important point! (0, Offtopic)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016614)

Not only is Kathleen Wermke a hot babe goddess, but speaking of the University of Wurzburg, has anyone ever tried making a pancake batch or waffle batch using Wurzburger Dark beer?

Really makes for a great breakfast!!!!!!

Re:Dramatic Findings (3, Insightful)

MinistryOfTruthiness (1396923) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016730)

People have been playing music to babies in the womb for years. Many parents are encouraged to speak to their baby while in the womb so the baby learns the sounds of mommy's and daddy's voice. Not new, but it puts some more scientific evidence to what any parent with a kid under 20 (or more?) could have already told you.

Babies get excited and kick when there's commotion outside too -- loud noises and such. They are listening, and with fairly developed infant brains, it's no surprise that they begin getting accustomed to common sounds and tones they hear going on around them.

The only thing stopping this from being painfully obvious is the fact that people don't seem to believe that the baby exists in any real form until it's born. Academically, sure, but for 40 years liars and idiots have tried to tell us that it's not a baby until it's born. "Revelations" like this story will always surprise people who have bought into such intellectual dishonesty. There's no switch that says to the baby brain, "Okay, you're born now, start acting like a real brain." By birth, it's been working like that for many months, and doing what brains do: learning.

Re:Dramatic Findings (2, Insightful)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016912)

There are plenty of ground breaking scientific findings that were not obvious. They fall under the category paradigm-shifting findings.

--Evidence that suggested all things accelerate downward equally (neglecting air friction)
--Evidence that suggested the world was spherical
--Evidence that the earth was not at the center of...well anything
--Evidence that suggested time was reletive
--Evidence that things are made up of atoms and not Earth,Fire,Water,Air
--DNA ...

Re:Dramatic Findings (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015772)

I am. I didn't know, and what I know now is very cool compared to what I would have assumed. I am surprised.

Re:Dramatic Findings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30015794)

I am...?

Re:Dramatic Findings (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015998)

I know I wanted a Discovery or TLC show quite a few years ago that stated this same thing. I don't know why this is 'new' news.

If you speak french to a french baby, they calm down. If you speak another language (with radically different phonemes) they don't respond to it any different than a random noise.

Re:Dramatic Findings (1)

Emerssso (865009) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016214)

What you're talking about (phonemic recognition by babies) doesn't happen until a few months after birth (I don't know the exact time, as by book on the topic is currently on loan). Until that time, they will respond equally to phonemic inventories not of their native language.

Re:Dramatic Findings (2, Funny)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016258)

I'm glad we have scientific evidence to back it up, but did anyone believe this wasn't the case? Is anybody surprised by these findings?

Actually I dismissed these "findings" as utter nonsense as soon as the word CRYING was followed by the word MELODY.

Re:Dramatic Findings (1)

aynoknman (1071612) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016262)

This is a bunch of balderdash ...
When I was in the womb my mother used to play a bunch of old scratchy vinyl LPs, but that didn't affect me...fect me...fect me...fect me...fect me...fect me...fect me...fect me...fect me...fect me

Interesting but dubious (5, Informative)

bargainsale (1038112) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015702)

Discussed here by someone who actually knows about this stuff:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1869 [upenn.edu]

Re:Interesting but dubious (2, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015792)

I like the last paragraph: "Oh, and the journalistic generalizations were false as an expression of the authors' findings. Of course."

Of course. Sigh.

Re:Interesting but dubious (2, Interesting)

Dausha (546002) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016324)

So, your point is best summarize by a comment found on that link:

"'This technique of cherry-picking atypical "typical" values for rhetorical effect is[...]'

"I would have completed this sentence 'intellectually dishonest[.'] Contrasting that with the way you completed it is a rather sad comment on scientific publishing, especially if this piece has already passed peer review without any of the reviewers finding this worthy of comment."

My experience is this situation is more common than not: that even peer-reviewed scientific papers are conclusory, generally in the direction of bias of the specific field (or at the very least, in the direction of the peer-reviewers.

Re:Interesting but dubious (1)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016746)

Which is why replication so important.

The lang blog guy hypothesizes that the differences might not be found in replication. Great. The study is pretty straight forward, go replicate it. It seems something that a few grad students in a seminar could knock out in a semester. Go for it.

So... when? (0, Offtopic)

Jhon (241832) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015712)

infants begin picking up elements of what will be their first language in the womb

When is it human? When is it a person? How early is "abortion" ok?

Hate to be "off topic", but that line above really sparked the question.

Re:So... when? (1)

coolgeek (140561) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015758)

Didn't it say "in the last trimester"? Abortions after 24 weeks are illegal.

Re:So... when? (2, Informative)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015828)

Depends on the country you live in. Here's a chart of criteria/country.

http://www.pregnantpause.org/lex/world02.htm [pregnantpause.org]

Interesting to note, USA, Sweden, and North Korea have something in common. I've leave the exercise for the viewer to figure out what that is.

Re:So... when? (3, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015906)

Uh...... hate to break it to you, but that chart is wrong. In at least the US, on-Demand abortions come with severe restrictions. Notably, they don't happen after the third-trimester.

I'm pretty sure that site isn't an authoritative source, if for no other reason that it refers to "pro-lifers" and "pro-abortionists". The chosen terminology by each group is pro-life and pro-choice. Respect it.

Re:So... when? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015960)

In at least the US, on-Demand abortions come with severe restrictions. Notably, they don't happen after the third-trimester.

Umm, birth happens at the end of the third trimester, so abortion is pretty much impossible after the third trimester.

But if you meant "during the third trimester", then in the USA it's just a function of what State you choose to have your abortion in, and what doctor you use. Some are more easygoing than others about what "to save the life of the mother" means.

Re:So... when? (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015984)

Sorry, yes, that was supposed to read "during" the third trimester.

You're going to have to demonstrate that "to save the life of the mother" is equivalent to "i can't live with a child" in most states. Other wise, I'm going to have to assume that it is exactly as stated "to save the life of the mother", and that's definitely not a choice that the mother makes.

Starvation (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016872)

You're going to have to demonstrate that "to save the life of the mother" is equivalent to "i can't live with a child"

How about "I'm so poor that if I feed a child, I starve to death"?

Re:So... when? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016004)

USA it's just a function of what State you choose to have your abortion in, and what doctor you us

Correct. I'm sure that depending on your situation, you could drive to the respective states for the procedure to be performed. I'm thinking that chart of the USA was based on the lowest common denominator of laws with regards to the 50 states that make up the nation.

Re:So... when? (0, Offtopic)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016180)

Is your signature true?

If so, honestly, I think you're the first Dittohead that I've read about that can come to a logical conclusion. You're so rare you're like the white buffalo.

Re:So... when? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016094)

I'm pretty sure that site isn't an authoritative source, if for no other reason that it refers to "pro-lifers" and "pro-abortionists". The chosen terminology by each group is pro-life and pro-choice. Respect it.

That makes about as much sense as someone saying the correct terminology was pro-abolitionism and pro-labor-choice. Have the guts to call it what it is, not some wishy-washy euphemism.

Re:So... when? (-1, Troll)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016176)

Of course. Fag. Oh wait, you take offense to that? Think it's insulting? I'm just calling you out for who you are - a Fag. Oh wait, that's not how it works? Really?

You're comment is everything that's wrong in politics right now: all sound and fury, loaded with emotional arguments and no substance.

Re:So... when? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016542)

You're comment is everything that's wrong in politics right now: all sound and fury, loaded with emotional arguments and no substance.

After the simply stunning display of well reasoned logic you displayed in the first part of your post, I am inclined to agree.

Re:So... when? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016182)

Yes, and the chosen term by rapists is "practitioners of surprise sex".

The groups are pro-abortion and anti-abortion. Saying anything else confuses the issue.

Re:So... when? (5, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016526)

There's a difference between being pro-abortion rights and being pro-abortion. I support the right of assholes to have freedom of speech, even if it is hate speech against blacks, jews, or gays. That doesn't make me a KKK Nazi Republican.

This country is founded on the fundamental premise that we have freedom of religion, speech, etc., up to the point at which it directly harms others. The abortion debate is about the very complicated question of whether it harms another person or not. That's not an easy philosophical question to answer, and before anyone is qualified to answer that question, he or she must free himself or herself from the tendency to reply, "That's easy, my parents said..." or "That's easy, my preacher said..." or any other answer that comes easily. Such easy answers are almost always the wrong ones, as they are generally the end of thought on the subject rather than the beginning.

For example, the easy (but wrong) answers for how to fight abortion are: 1. sue to make it illegal, and 2. try to convince people not to have them. Suing, however, is unlikely to make any real progress. Convincing people not to have abortions is slightly better; it may save a few individual children while you are actively doing this work, but it is an extremely inefficient way to improve things because it requires eternal vigilance by a fairly large number of people to be effective to any significant degree.

By contrast, a much smarter answer is to contribute money to medical research to make it possible to sustain a fetus at progressively younger ages, eventually resulting in abortion being unnecessary, and eliminating any possible justification for abortion in the minds of even the staunchest abortion rights advocates. By answering in this way, your actions are the start of further thought and discussion instead of being dogmatic roadblocks to further thought. Further, instead of just reducing abortions, you're also doing something that helps humanity outside the context of abortion. Women who can't have kids could have kids, fetuses whose mothers die would not necessarily die, mothers who are diagnosed with cancer would no longer have to choose between chemotherapy and the lives of their children, women who are victims of rape or incest could give up their children for adoption and never have to endure childbirth for a child that was forced upon them, women who get pregnant when they are too young to safely bear a child would no longer be at serious risk, etc.

Think bigger. Don't think of abortion as a problem to be solved. Think of it as a bad solution to a wide range of problems that could be solved in other ways, then try to find other ways.

Re:So... when? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016692)

Actually, abortion is the irresponsible solution that irresponsible people advocate so that they can be irresponsible without having to worry about the result of their irresponsibility. Also, these people are total hypocrites because they think that mothers that kill their babies are monsters, but killing them a few months earlier is perfectly okay. "Pro-choice" is also a misnomer, because they don't want to give the father any choice in this matter.

They are incoherent, they are irresponsible, they are hypocrites, they are sexists, AND they are selfish, thus they don't deserve ANY respect.

Re:So... when? (0, Troll)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016332)

"The chosen terminology by each group is pro-life and pro-choice. Respect it."

The proper terms are pro-life, and baby-killers. You respect it.

Whose choice? (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016900)

The chosen terminology by each group is pro-life and pro-choice. Respect it.

Do "pro-choice" platforms take into account the father's choice or the child's choice?

Re:So... when? (2, Informative)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015926)

Interesting to note, USA, Sweden, and North Korea have something in common. I've leave the exercise for the viewer to figure out what that is.

And the anti-abortion set apparently think that even Afghanistan is too liberal a country. Without even looking at the rest of the site, the color scheme tells me that this list is compiled by nut jobs. I find it amazing that Angola and Egypt get yellow flags for allowing abortion if the woman's life is in danger only--respectively--in the first trimester or if the pregnancy is the result of rape.

El Salvador, Malta and Vatican City, however, all get green flags across the board.

Re:So... when? (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016002)

And interestingly, South America, with one of the most restrictive set of abortion laws, has about as many or more abortions than the more liberal countries.

Re:So... when? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016068)

Yes, that is interesting. However when looking globally, the most religious countries are the ones with the most abortion law restrictions. Seems that Islamic countries lead on this front.

Re:So... when? (0, Offtopic)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016114)

Correct. So, do you want the US to be like the various Islamic countries that lead on this front? Just checking, because that has a number of implications on other fronts.

Re:So... when? (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016126)

And according to the same site, they also have it in common with:

Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, Cambodia, Canada, China, Croatia, Cuba, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Vietnam, Yugoslavia.

I thought there was no more Yugoslavia.

That makes for a fairly random looking list of nations.

Re:So... when? (0, Redundant)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016640)

William of Ockham had no beard. The most likely explanation is that it was chewed off by squirrels every morning. Or maybe he took care of it with his famous razor.

Re:So... when? (2, Interesting)

Phroggy (441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015874)

Didn't it say "in the last trimester"? Abortions after 24 weeks are illegal.

But this delineation is entirely arbitrary, based on "what would make a significant number of people uncomfortable" rather than on science. Are they human beings at 25 weeks? Not human beings at 23?

Re:So... when? (1)

cathector (972646) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016056)

i am a scientist,
but i'm not sure science is the right vehicle to explore that question with.
science can provide input, such as "it develops a heartbeat at such-and-such a time" or "it first contemplates its soon-to-be navel at T = 20 weeks" or whatever, but it should obviously be up to [each] culture to interpret those data w/r/t deciding when it's human-enough-to-no-longer-be-abortable.

also, this seems like a well-trod and somewhat tedious subject, as well as totally off-topic.

Re:So... when? (1)

Artraze (600366) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016168)

> But this delineation is entirely arbitrary, based on "what would make a significant
> number of people uncomfortable" rather than on science. Are they human beings at 25
> weeks? Not human beings at 23?

Well, scientifically, they are developing, so if they are certainly human beings after birth, and not before conception, they are some fraction thereof (0-100% inclusive) during the interim. One could, I suppose, construct a sort of Schrodinger's baby scenario to determine percent humanity based on probability of successful birth, but what's the point? Unless abortions are categorically illegal or you're allowed to club babies on the way out you'll need to draw a firm line somewhere, and, no matter how scientific the basis, it'll be arbitrary.

Re:So... when? (2, Insightful)

MinistryOfTruthiness (1396923) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016784)

I don't understand the line-drawing. There is no line. Stop with the line drawing. You don't use magic numbers in your code, and you surely should use them to determine matters of life and death. If it came from humans and develops into a human, it's a human. Pigs don't develop into humans, nor do dogs, sheep, or monkeys. A human is a human at every stage of its development. No line.

The honest question each society must answer is: At what point in a human's life is it okay to murder them for your convenience?

Re:So... when? (1)

MinistryOfTruthiness (1396923) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016790)

bleh. Missed a word. "...surely should *NOT* use them to determine...".

Re:So... when? (1)

shilly (142940) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016930)

You honestly believe that the minute the spunk hits the egg, it's a murder, do you? I hope you don't believe in God, then, cos you're going to have to think he's quite the callous cunt given how many early miscarriages happen (oh, sorry, murders of defenceless little baby humans by a God with the power and intelligence to know better). And then you're going to be terrified he's going to send you to hell for thinking he's a callous cunt (even if he is, I guess)

Re:So... when? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016284)

But this delineation is entirely arbitrary, based on "what would make a significant number of people uncomfortable" rather than on science. Are they human beings at 25 weeks? Not human beings at 23?

Most morality law is entirely arbitrary, based on what would make a significant number of people uncomfortable. Is there any reason we can't kill them after they are born? Many societies have been ok with that, though ours hasn't. Is there any reason we can't kill our neighbor if he becomes sufficiently annoying? Once again, other societies have been ok with that, but it makes us uncomfortable.

There is no scientific basis for right and wrong. In essence science is merely an observation, an explanation of the natural world around us. It can tell us what the results of our actions may be, but it cannot tell us what is right or wrong. Right and wrong are entirely based on opinion.

Re:So... when? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015982)

Abortions after 24 weeks are illegal.

Not in the USA. Abortion rules vary from State to State, of course, but no State has been able to successfully forbid abortions based on time since conception. They can just restrict it slightly by specifying restrictions that are easily overcome of the right doctor is found.

Re:So... when? (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015764)

I will admit that this information has influenced me in my perspective of this topic.

Re:So... when? (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015908)

Why? The experiment points out that babies may only begin to be influenced by their native language during the last trimester, and the vast majority of abortions happen in the first (late-term abortions are only ever performed when the health of the mother is in jeopardy), well before the brain is developed sufficiently to be considered "alive".

Re:So... when? (2, Interesting)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015974)

There is a difference between when the 'vast majority of abortions happen' and my own opinion/perspective on abortions. And this information has served to inform me further on a related topic to reproduction/abortion. That is why.

I'm being vague because this topic is very controversial and I don't have the time or interest to get into it again. I just wanted to point out that this information is related and informative.

Re:So... when? (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015840)

And apparently, after they're born, they remain human their whole lives. When is the "death penalty" OK? Hate to be "off" the "off topic", but I figure if we're looking for controversy...

Re:So... when? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016080)

You have to keep in mind that most pro-life/pro-execution people are also hunters - that explains the contradiction. They don't want to kill the unwanted children before birth - you've got to let them grow up, THEN kill them.

Re:So... when? (1)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016208)

Unless you're talking a yearling buck or veal. It doesn't do any good to point out hypocrisy, it's better to just accept it, everyone is a hypocrite.

Re:So... when? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016444)

If we accept that most pro-life people are also pro-execution/hunters (ignoring the obvious differences there), how does that prove any point? There are plenty of doctors who tell patients to improve their diet, then go have McDonalds for lunch. Does that invalidate their claims that a better diet is healthy?

Re:So... when? (1)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016468)

When is the "death penalty" OK?

Well, in the US, the constitution explicitly spells out how capital crimes are to be handled...

Re:So... when? (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016654)

Yes, and it's clearly just because the penalty is meted out even-handedly and fairly across all ethnic and socio-economic groups.

Re:So... when? (1)

weave (48069) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015882)

I've often wished reasonable scientific methods could determine when a life becomes sentient/aware and define that as having the same legal protections as born people. It's unfortunate that each side on the debate will not compromise and find a reasonable standard. One one side you have some pro-choice people who think nothing of killing a perfectly viable fetus and the horrors of partial-birth abortion, and on the other side you have pro-life people who are against even the day after pill because a conception may have occurred. Sorry folks, but a zygote that has no brain yet is incapable of being self-aware.

Define a time in a pregnancy when the fetus starts to develop a brain and possible self-awareness and just cut the line there.

I have a feeling that's pretty early, like 2 months in. But if abortions were illegal after that point, decisions would be made sooner.

Of course if the mother's life is in danger, that's a different issue -- as is that pre-determined "Trig" factor and whether it's ethical to abort based on parental convenience issues.

But starting somewhere using scientific reason and logic to me would be refreshing. I don't buy that a week or two old fetus is a "person" any more than a brain dead accident victim is, to whom it's legal to remove life support from and let die. The "potential" and soul argument is mainly a religious one and shouldn't be a factor. If your religious beliefs believe that, then don't have an abortion.

Re:So... when? (1)

gak001 (954735) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016090)

I actually just recently read a rather though-provoking article regarding the legal implications of personhood. http://coloradoindependent.com/41283/anti-abortion-%E2%80%98personhood%E2%80%99-measures-shrink-the-rights-of-women [coloradoindependent.com] The problem with putting certain restrictions on abortion is it creates rights for the fetus that could lead to a reduction in the personhood rights of the mother, turning her into a complicated egg. It's an extremely complicated issue. One that, in my humble opinion, should be left to the woman, her doctors and spiritual advisers.

Re:So... when? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016264)

The mother chose to become pregnant, assuming there was no rape. I can't invite you in my house then shoot you for trespassing.

(And yes, I consider having sex consenting to become pregnant. You know damn well it can happen, if it would be a problem, keep your damn legs shut. And if you're male, and don't want to consent to becoming a father, then keep your damn pants zipped. This is a 100% effective method of birth control. [There are second-hand reports of it failing once about 2010 years ago, but I don't buy it...])

Re:So... when? (2, Interesting)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016576)

and on the other side you have pro-life people who are against even the day after pill because a conception may have occurred.

Even as someone who's against abortion, I can't understand that opinion. The pill prevents implantation. A fertilized egg not properly implanting and therefore not becoming a viable embryo is, based on my understanding, a rather common occurrence in a woman's life. Hell, it seems nowadays we're damn lucky to even get successful pregnancies.

Define a time in a pregnancy when the fetus starts to develop a brain and possible self-awareness and just cut the line there.

I'm not sure that's something that can be scientifically determined... Psychologists and Cognitive Scientists have been studying what makes something sentient for longer than you or I have been around, and they don't seem to be any closer to having figured that out than when they started.

Though it would be significantly more ideal than the current determining factor: viability. 'Viability' changes as medical technology improves, with the date for a child surviving a pre-term birth slowly marching downwards. 24 weeks (6 months) is accepted as survivable, albeit with significant risk, with reports claiming successful deliveries at 21 weeks. We're on the threshold of second trimester deliveries being regularly survivable, and yet second trimester abortions are accepted as the baby is "not viable." I have no doubt that with the way medical technology is going, we'll eventually have the ability to produce entire artificial wombs for the gestation of children, where the mother does not even have to play a part other than the donation of an egg... What then? Does that modify our definition of viability? (Never mind the huge ethical can of worms opened by having artificial baby factories...)

I don't buy that a week or two old fetus is a "person" any more than a brain dead accident victim is, to whom it's legal to remove life support from and let die.

A friend of mine was a columnist in my Uni's newspaper and he actually used a similar example... "Should a family who's loved one is currently on life support and in a coma, upon being told by the attending physician that they expect the patient to be able to come off of life support and regain consciousness in three months, and then eventually go on to lead a normal fully functional life afterward, be allowed to have the patient removed from life support simply due to not wanting the financial burden? No? Then why is abortion legal?"

Re:So... when? (1)

weave (48069) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016722)

A friend of mine was a columnist in my Uni's newspaper and he actually used a similar example... "Should a family who's loved one is currently on life support and in a coma, upon being told by the attending physician that they expect the patient to be able to come off of life support and regain consciousness in three months, and then eventually go on to lead a normal fully functional life afterward, be allowed to have the patient removed from life support simply due to not wanting the financial burden? No? Then why is abortion legal?"

Ah, but that person in a coma still has enough brain activity to keep the thing refreshed. A comatose person may even be self-aware. But a one month old fetus certainly doesn't have a brain to even function yet. I could buy that logic at 4-6 months in though.

Re:So... when? (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016890)

Actually even if they are not allowed to have him removed from life support I can't expect the family to be forced to pay for it. Then it's up to the state to decide for how long it is going to support these kinds of patients. After that person is revived he can sue his family to get his stuff back, not unlike when a missing person comes out to be alive after several years . The state then can sue him to pay for his medical debts. Or he can choose not pay for the bills and go to prison or commit suicide or both.

It sounds crazy and heartless but it is the way I'd hope the government managed these cases.

New? (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015762)

I thought this was a well-established fact -- I remember being taught this in one of my psych classes.

Re:New? (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016788)

What's taught in psych 101 is that babies recognize their mothers voices. Recognizing a voice vs. learning language skills is quite different.

Uh Oh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30015780)

The pro-abortion crowd isn’t going to like this. The Science Daily better prepare themselves for personal attacks. If you’re a scientist anyways, that shouldn’t matter IMHO. Knowledge is knowledge.

Nerds and abortion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30015890)

I would think that nerds see that eating meat is just like abortion.

Oh, no... (1)

ratpick (649064) | more than 4 years ago | (#30015950)

Does that mean the girls who "talk like THIS," ending every sentence or phrase on a higher note like they're asking a QUESTION, are going to breed more people who sound like dipshits right out of the womb? Credit due Stewie for defining this behaviour.

Re:Oh, no... (1)

Opyros (1153335) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016818)

It's known as "uptalk"; see e.g. this old Language Log post [158.130.17.5] .

Implications for artifical gestation (1)

t3sser4ct (1522605) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016034)

I wonder what this would imply for infants developed in artificial wombs, with no physical contact with another human until after the moment of "birth" (as in Huxley's Brave New World). How would it affect the child's linguistic development and psychology?

Re:Implications for artifical gestation (1)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016230)

Good question, I think you could do studies based on the children of deaf/mute mothers, that's probably as close as you'll come to iso-vat babies for a while.

It's anecdotal, but... (3, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016116)

I remember when my daughter was born. She was 9 weeks early, so she spent several weeks in the neonatal ICU. What was interesting (and maybe somewhat relevant) is that quite often when my wife spoke, our daughter would seem to turn her head towards the sound. My voice didn't seem to have the same effect, nor did the voices of the medical staff.

The nurses at the hospital thought it was "cute" and didn't seem all that surprised - so I guess I am rather surprised this stuff is apparently new info and not settled science.

Re:It's anecdotal, but... (2, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016194)

I just went to a baby class where they demonstrated the power of the parents' voices over that of anyone else speaking to the baby. While two people compete voice wise for the baby's attention, the father will win out over strangers and the mother will win out over all.

Re:It's anecdotal, but... (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016418)

I remember when my daughter was born. She was 9 weeks early, so she spent several weeks in the neonatal ICU. What was interesting (and maybe somewhat relevant) is that quite often when my wife spoke, our daughter would seem to turn her head towards the sound. My voice didn't seem to have the same effect, nor did the voices of the medical staff.

When my wife was pregnant, she told me that my daughter would stop moving whenever I spoke.

Makes Sense (2, Interesting)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 4 years ago | (#30016204)

Makes sense. Even without an ear, the baby is basically living in a giant fluid filled sac connected only a couple feet away from the source of the noise. A person's body is basically one giant ear (hence why you can hear something you whisper or a bone in your foot crack when you stretch despite the fact no one around you can hear it).

Abhimanyu (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016254)

Ability of a fetus to learn in the womb has been part of Hindu mythology for a loooooong time.

Check out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abhimanyu

Hindus have strict restricts on pregnant women because of this. Of course not everyone follows these, but it is generally the case to keep pregnant women in a pleasant and positive environment..

It is good to see that this has been scientifically validated.

A language ey? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30016266)

This begs the question how to teach an infant the basics of Java, Perl, C# or other language... Should you start with syntax or semantics and how would you teach either?

Which language would you teach an infant, I guess I would go for Assembly, that way it'd garner a greater insight into the workings of.. hmm maybe I misinterpreted something here.

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