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How Infants Crack the Speech Code

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the some-of-us-never-quite-crack-it dept.

Science 506

scupper writes "Infants learn language with remarkable speed, but how they do it remains a mystery. New data shows that infants use computational strategies to detect patterns in language, according to UW's Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl in the Nature article "Early Language Acquisition: Cracking the Speech Code" [PMID: 15496861] Interesting excerpt from the article: 'There is evidence that infants analyse the statistical distributions of sounds that they hear in ambient language, and use this information to form phonemic categories. They also learn phonotactic rules -- language-specific rules that govern the sequences of phonemes that can be used to compose words.'"

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I think babies learn everything better than adults (3, Interesting)

fembots (753724) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691640)

I think babies learn everything better than adults. I will stick to my 'brain is still empty' theory :) As we grow, we have more spyware/adware installed, and things tend to go more slowly.

With these new findings, maybe a super computer can be built with these analytical and statistical skills, then this computer can learn to speak like HAL.

nature.com is pretty slow now, given that it's using cgi-taf on a Dynapage.taf, obviously didn't read the Do-Not-Slashdot ACT 1996 [interneh.com] , so here's a coral link [nyud.net] .

So what you are saying is.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691743)

That Bill Gates wrote Windows when he was an infant?

Re:I think babies learn everything better than adu (-1, Flamebait)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691771)

I'm happy to declare you the No-Shit-Sherlock prize winner for this Slashdot article.

Thanks to you, I realize why both my son and my grandmother dribble, poop their diapers and go gah-gah, but for some reason I couldn't quite fathom, I only booked one of them at preschool...

How about children with two native languages? (5, Interesting)

vivin (671928) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692112)

It is said that children who grow up in families with two native languages are better at learning new languages. In the context of this article, I wonder how that works out -- in the sense that I wonder how it makes it easy for these children to learn new languages.

Does the brain develop separate neural nets for each language? Is there a composite neural net? Does it matter how similar sounding or similar in grammar these two languages are? I grew up learning Malayalam (a south indian language from the Dravidian family) and English at the same time. When I was 6, I started learning Hindi. I can speak fluent Malayalam and English and I am decently fluent in Hindi. In highschool, I started learning French and found it easy. Now, I do a lot of latin dancing and I hang around a lot of hispanic people and I've been picking up Spanish. I don't find it all that difficult to learn a language if I put my mind to it.

English and Malayalam are two radically different languages -- in sound and in grammar. I wonder how the neural nets in my brain developed to cope with this, and whether that is what makes it easy for me to pick up new languages.

Re:I think babies learn everything better than adu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10692114)

That's why we need GW! The Patriots were right!

But will (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10692121)

they remember POLAND.

grammar (5, Interesting)

AssProphet (757870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691652)

as I understand it, Infants actually learn grammar before they learn words.

Re:grammar (5, Informative)

vivin (671928) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691802)

Yes, in a manner of speaking. They first learn what the language is supposed to sound like. The abstract tells us how the infants form words and sentences, but it doesn't tell us how they map the sounds to their meanings/contexts. Maybe the main article goes into more detail. I think the word/sound->meaning/context mapping would be interesting to study.

There are computer programs that can recognize words (voice recognition), but how many programs can (with a large rate of success) recognize the words and map them to their meanings, or context? The point about the neural net is also interesting. It would seem that the brain is programmed to understand a certain language better. Does that mean that people who have learnt a certain language, can learn a similar language easily? The article seems to suggest that if the neural net is built in a certain way, it might be easy to learn similar sounding languages, but a language with a very similar grammar, but different sounds might be difficult? Would be interesting to pursue and find out...

Re:grammar (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691836)

There are various theories. In the generative tradition, humans are born with a vast amount of knowledge about language. In that sense they already know "grammar" before they learn individual words. On the other hand, to work out the settings for the various innate parameters they have to be able to segment into words, so many linguists would probably say that "grammar" acquisition runs alongside lexical acquisition. For more information, read anything by Chomsky.

Other theoretical traditions would say that there is no innate grammar, but rather that learning a language consists of learning statistical patterns which are represented through neural activation patterns. For them, grammar will follow lexical acquisition. Other argue that the lexicon is effectively the grammar. For more information, read anything by Elman or Bates. Both the latter have articles online which can easily be found by googling, but I'm a lazyarse and can't be bothered to do it.

Re:grammar (1, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691856)

When was the last time you saw an infant? FYI, infants do something early in life called "saying their first word". When that happens, they've just learned one single word, and it usually turns out to be pretty hard to conjugate with itself...

Re:grammar (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10692026)

Wow, that must be hard for them, knowing that someone has bad grammer, but not being able to tell them.

Doesn't explain (5, Funny)

vivin (671928) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691653)

It doesn't explain why they pick up swearwords much easier than normal words :)

ga ga goo goo.

Re:Doesn't explain (1)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691772)

Doesn't it, though?

Re:Doesn't explain (3, Funny)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692048)

Actually, my 3.5 yr old son is in his mimicing stage right now.

However, he seems to realize that he shouldn't repeat some 'bad' words that we use. He has never mimiced any curse words that he has heard, yet can spew whole phrases about what I'm telling my wife to do :-)

Re:Doesn't explain (1)

No Fortune (826673) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692071)

Reptition. Repetition. Repetition. It becomes easier after hearing the words multiple times. Most swear words, when uttered, carry emphasized intonation and/or volume. ('Cause when one's swearing at someone or something, one probably mean it!) :-) That probably helps them pick out words better because of the forceful nature in which they were uttered.

Babies are smart? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691663)

Golly, babies can do all this statistical analysis and yet they still poop their pants.

Re:Babies are smart? (1)

Dersucher (602267) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691820)

Smart enough to get their parents to clean their crap up, so that they don't have to stop playingtv remote demolition derby.

Re:Babies are smart? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691850)

That's because their incredible deductive skills have shown them that if they poop their pants and sit in it long enough, someone will put them in a fresh diaper, thus saving them a trip to the bathroom. They are far more calculating then you realize. I haven't even begun to touch on the slaveholding by crying phenomenon. We're through the rabbit hole here people.

Babies smart? And how! (1)

shubert1966 (739403) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691860)

You betcha - They manage to get someone else to clean it up don't they! ;)

The first time I heard "DA-DA" (2, Funny)

Prophetic_Truth (822032) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691664)

it went like this..

"DA-DA, where's MA-MA?"

Maybe that explains... (1)

jbarr (2233) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691669)

...how "y'alls's" can be considered a usable word!

Re:Maybe that explains... (4, Informative)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691992)

It wouldn't be a "problem" if current English had a more formal way of differentiating 2nd-person singular from 2nd-person plural. We use "you all" or "you guys" because we don't use "thou" and "ye" anymore.

Great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691673)

Now that we know how infants do it, we can write an AI that can learn to say "Goo goo."

Re:Great... (2, Funny)

TheGavster (774657) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691893)

And then someone, somewhere, will be bored enough to implement it in PHP.

Not all infants (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691679)

After all, George W Bush is 57, and he's still trying to learn English.

Re:Not all infants (1)

xThinkx (680615) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691816)

Damn, maybe it's the politics thread right below this one, but you beat me to the punch on making almost that exact same statement.

/me toasts to the AC and his quick wit

Re:Not all infants (1)

SmokeHalo (783772) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691969)

You better not misunderestimate him, or he'll launch a nucular missile at you!

Re:Not all infants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10692117)

Oh, yeah?!

Well, we will just launch 500 right back at him before his one hits!

We may die, but we will not go down quietly!

Sincerely,
Deterence theory believer

The Matrix (4, Funny)

RomSteady (533144) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691680)

So in other words, if we create a Beowulf cluster of infants, and only allow them to hear sounds from "The Matrix" trilogy, the only words they would be able to say would be, "Keanu Reeves can't act?"

Sounds like a plan to me. [grin]

Re:The Matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691804)

the only words they would be able to say would be, "Keanu Reeves can't act?"

And here I thought it would be "Whoa" :D

Re:The Matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10692105)

That would be cruel! If you do that, they will never learn any language along with any symbolic association that goes along with language, they won't function well in society. They'll be unproductive, disturbed, institutionalized people...
the only thing you can do with them at that point is.....generate heat.

And from there... (1)

stealthmidget (761031) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691681)

it's easy to see the natural evolution into full-fledged flamewars on /.

ObBeowulf (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691685)

"New data shows that infants use computational strategies to detect patterns in language"

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of those...

Analyse ambient sounds? (4, Insightful)

mccalli (323026) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691699)

There is evidence that infants analyse the statistical distributions of sounds that they hear in ambient language

Or to simplify the vocabulary a little, "copy what they hear the most of".

Cheers,
Ian

Re:Analyse ambient sounds? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691825)

'Copy what they hear the most of' doesn't explain how they parse sound into phonemes. Besides, are we sure that human speech is what they hear the most of?

Re:Analyse ambient sounds? (4, Insightful)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691835)

The headline should read, "new study discovers academic rewording for common-sense explanation of phenomenon."

Learn what the language sounds like (1)

vivin (671928) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691959)

Essentially they figure out what the language sounds like, before they figure out what it means.

Re:Learn what the language sounds like (1)

saintp (595331) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692091)

...which we already knew. Even newborns show affinities for their own language over other languages, and by just a few months babies have already lost the ability to distinguish some phonemes that aren't in their language. I agree with the grandparent: nothing to see here, move along.

Babies are amazing machines (-1, Flamebait)

Exmet Paff Daxx (535601) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691705)

They can learn nearly any concept from the ground up faster than an adult. Amazingly, they can even do it during the last term of pregnancy, making late-term abortions apalling and John Kerry's stance as a baby killer all the more morally reprehensible. Personally I'm voting to save more of these amazing machines!

Re:Babies are amazing machines (-1, Offtopic)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691780)

Congrats on adding pointless political commentary to a totally unrelated topic...... Oy, must we politicize EVERYTHING!!!

Re:Babies are amazing machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691788)

You're calling them "machines"?

umm...right.

Please leave the politics out of this! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691858)

Could we please for once keep the political agendas out of the discussion! Every single thread on Slashdot for the last couple of weeks is full of it. We have enough flame wars as it is.

Your vote is your opinion, so please keep it to yourself.

In other words... (1)

n6kuy (172098) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691706)

...you can learn a lot just by listening.

But how come adults find it more dificult to do that than babies?

Re:In other words... (2, Funny)

sik0fewl (561285) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692009)

I'm sure if babies could talk they would spend a lot less time listening.

Re:In other words... (1)

RangerRick98 (817838) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692017)

Because adults have had more experience hearing people talk but not say anything worth listening to, I'd imagine. :)

wow... (0, Redundant)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691709)

> infants analyse the statistical distributions of sounds that they hear in ambient language

Imagine a beowulf cluster of those...

Just liek everyone else... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691723)

They get the NO-CD from SpeechCopyWorld

How'd they figure this out? (2, Funny)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691726)

Did they find a non-functional baby and dump the ROMs?

Re:How'd they figure this out? (4, Funny)

selderrr (523988) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691940)

nope. They took a functional baby and analyzed its core dump :-)

Re:How'd they figure this out? (1, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692100)

> Did they find a non-functional baby and dump the ROMs?

"I am writing to you to avail Myself of My rights under the Genetic Millenium Copyright Act (GMCA). This letter is a Notice of Infringement as authorized under section 1024(c) of the Divine Copyright Law. I wish to report an instance of what I feel in good faith is an instance of Copyright Infringement. The infringing genetic code is hosted in the gene bank for which you are the designated agent.

1. The material which I contend belongs to Me, and has appears illegally in the research journal is the following: [see attached gene sequences for self-organizing neural networks for rapid acquisition of linguistic comprehension and synthesis in embryonic homo sapiens]

2. Links to the material appear at the website address: www.slashdot.org [slashdot.org]

3. My contact information is as follows: [IPv7-over-carrier-dove to root@257.257.257.257, or visit your nearest confessional booth and accept an oral donation of DNA and other assorted proteins from the chap in the dark suit and snappy collar]

4. I have a good faith belief that the use of the material that appears on the service is not authorized by the copyright owner, My vicar, or by operation of law.

5. The in formation in this notice is accurate, and I am either the copyright owner or I am authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner.

I declare under the perjury laws of My Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent Self that this declaration is true and correct.

- The Pope, agent for Gawd Awmighty Inc."

But can they... (1, Funny)

chia_monkey (593501) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691727)

But can they run Linux?

Re:But can they... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691997)

they can, but the hardware isn't stable and frequantly has core dumps... often very smelly runny core dumps.

it also contains a very borked apm, after putting it to sleep it will frequantly wake up and make noise. there is no reliable and legel way to uninstall the sound to work around this problem.

Babies don't have to crack the code (0, Redundant)

cyber_rigger (527103) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691728)

They just use the universal word

waaaaaaahhhhh!!!!

The article states that babies learn the same way (5, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691730)

regardless of their native tongue. I'm curious as to why then it becomes much harder for adults who are native speakers of one class of language(say Romantic) to learn languages that are not related to their native tongue(for example Chinese speakers who learn English and vica-versa). The summary doesn't state if perhaps we are teaching language the wrong way. I know that our ability to learn languages decreases as we grow older, but I seriously think there is something lacking in the way languages are presented in high school/college.
The question becomes now, can we take this data and apply it to teaching languages?

Re:The article states that babies learn the same w (4, Informative)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691907)

I'm curious as to why then it becomes much harder for adults who are native speakers of one class of language(say Romantic) to learn languages that are not related to their native tongue ...

Well, the article summary sez:

Young infants are sensitive to subtle differences between all phonetic units, whereas older children lose their sensitivity to distinctions that are not used in their native language.
Clear enough?

Expose your children to as many languages as you can, in their infancy and beyond. The more languages they hear sounds from, the better.

This effect might explain why my kids have all been a little slow in talking: they are hearing two languages, with very different sets of phonemes at home, and have to decode and make sense of both.

very simple and explained already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691910)

after a certain age, about 3 - 5 years old as a general rule humans lose they ability to actually hear certain sounds. That is why some native asians can't master the L sound, they never heard it and have lost all ability to hear it.

It is also what make somethign like Russian or Hebrew extremely hard to learn for Americans. Too many sounds we just can't hear/percieve.

There are exceptions of course but that is the general rule.

Don't believe it... (5, Insightful)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691941)

Don't believe it. It takes most humans ~2 years to learn to speak their native tounge enough to call them fluent, and then they still have a limited vocabulary. If you take an adult and put them in an environment that has no one who speaks their native language, and many people who will have infinite patience in teaching their language to you, you will be able to speak it in less than 2 years. The myth that children learn language faster is created because standards are lower, and adults have a lot more to distract them, so the spend less time over an equivelent period, actually trying to learn the language.

Re:The article states that babies learn the same w (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691954)

Unsaid assumption: babies find it easier than adults to learn language.

It is possible that babies find it really hard to learn language. I don't remember doing it, so I can't tell you. Once we know it, it's possible that we take it for granted. Saying that it becomes harder for adults might just be a part of this assumption, which may be right or it may be wrong.

I do know that adults can learn a new language relatively quickly and easily, if they are immersed in it. If I had my own personal tutor follow me around all day long, and if I spoke to nobody but this tutor, I would learn very quickly and painlessly too. This tutor would speak to me only in the language I'm learning, teaching me as if I were an infant by first teaching me the words for common objects, then simple verbs, and gradually increasing in complexity from there. I'd wager that with a full-time tutor, I could become pretty good at a language within a year, and quite fluent in two to three years. This is comparable to what an infant achieves.

Now, consider that every infant has the benefit of their parents and caregivers, teaching them the language all day long, every day. The notion that babies learn language much easier than adults seems a little less believable to me.

Babies have a sweet setup for learning language. (1)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691980)

If you were stranded in a strange place, and you couldn't speak the language and had to rely totally on people you didn't know, and had nothing else to do besides eat and sleep, don't you think you'd be pretty inclined to learn the language?

Re:The article states that babies learn the same w (1)

sucker_muts (776572) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692074)

All languages combined together form all possible sounds humans can make with their voice. As a baby you only learn those specific subtle sounds your parents/environnement gives to you. Later on it's very hard or even impossible to regain the power to pronounce sounds not found in your native language.

This is why it's funny to hear people speak in (for example) english when they are french. Or our good friend Arnold of course.

Me, living in Belgium and natively speaking dutch, learned to speak french at the age of 10 at school. These are regular public schools. The trick is too learn new/other languages as soon as possible to get the soundings right. (The government is even considering lowering the age to 6 or so...)

Re:The article states that babies learn the same w (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10692087)

While I'm sure there are many things wrong with the way languages are taught, work on second language acquisition would suggest that it's not just down to that.

The many reason for it being different to learn a different language is that it involves learning a greater or lesser different way of viewing the world. To take a trivial example: I think it's Russian which doesn't distinguish green and blue in its focal colours (ie the ones little kiddies learn first). That's a different way of carving up your experience of the world. Now try learning an ergative and accusative language (like Basque) instead of a nominative-accusative language (most Indo-European languages). There, subjects of intransitive verbs have the same case marking as objects of transitive verbs. It's a different way of thinking. Languages which are more closely related genetically are more likely to be similar and therefore easier to to learn, but even so few people attain native-like fluency.

Second reason is that babies' short attentional spans may aid their learning. Simulations have been done on simple recurrent networks which showed that when the network was trained on whole sentences it couldn't learn word order well. When, however, it was altered such that at first it only got short stretches of speech (as if it had a short memory or attention span) and that then gradually increased, it learned word order very well indeed. Adults may just be too smart to learn other languages like that so the data won't be applicable. (I think Jeff Elaman did this work.)

Re:The article states that babies learn the same w (1)

rdurell (827253) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692095)

Perhaps babies learn language faster as they do not attempt to translate it. In other words, babies do not appear to be wonder what "agua" means in their native tongue. I imagine a lot of processing is done by adults who are trying to translate from one language to another real time. I know once you've made the connection with a language you stop performing this step, but in the mean time a lot of energy is wasted in the translation phase.

I for one... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691735)

welcome our new infant language learning overlords.

Wait, that would mean they're around age 8 to 24 months.

Damn!

Don't look, don't look...think of something else.

Back to the mothership. Ohhmmmmmmmmmm.

Confirms a suspicion I've had all along (5, Interesting)

YetAnotherName (168064) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691736)

OK, my daughter, being the daughter of a couple of geeks, was exposed early on to lots of anime. Now, we speak English in the house, and she certainly picked up on that. But when she babbled, it would have a Japanese kind of sound to it.

She's four years old now and is totally in love with Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon [eternalsailormoon.org] , a live action show. Now, her reading isn't up to snuff to actually keep up with the captions, but she loves the pretty girls going shopping, singing, and fighting evil.

And now she takes that same cadence and rhythm from the long exposure to spoken and sung Japanese and will faithfully reproduce the words of songs, or will chatter in a kind of pseudo-Japanese when playing by herself. Yet her English is accentless. Clearly, there's some kind of organizational process going on in that cute little head.

Yeah, we're probably setting her up to get ostrasized in school, but then again, if she'd just pick up on some of those fighting techniques, that might not happen either!

Re:Confirms a suspicion I've had all along (5, Interesting)

La Camiseta (59684) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691824)

And now she takes that same cadence and rhythm from the long exposure to spoken and sung Japanese and will faithfully reproduce the words of songs, or will chatter in a kind of pseudo-Japanese when playing by herself. Yet her English is accentless.

This is actually a regular occurence with children who learn multiple languages before puberty. Typically, when you learn two or more languages before you reach puberty, you are able to speak both without a discernable accent.

If you were to take your daughter to Japanese classes at this age, odds are that she would grow up able to speak Japanese without an English accent and vice-versa.

Re:Confirms a suspicion I've had all along (1)

fracai (796392) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691911)

My father grew up in a Finnish speaking household that strictly limited the Finn-speak around him. His parents were afraid that he would confuse English and Finn and thus fall behind in school. Since that time it has bee learned that children brought up in multilingual households can clearly seperate the multiple languages. That has to have something to do with the statistical findings here. Patterns for different languages will be clear enough to identify the boundaries. I think that's amazingly cool. I just wish my grandparents had had access to this information. I might know more Finn than I do. The ladies love language :)

Re:Confirms a suspicion I've had all along (1)

crasher35 (787091) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691951)

Yes... "fighting techniques." I'm sure that doing an awkward kind of ballet around the bullies is going to help her in school ;)

Honestly, I loved Pretty Guardian Sailormoon (although I was disappointed at the ending), but the "fighting" was something I always mocked.

Yuo Fail It (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691741)

fun to be again. new core is going am protesting FrreBSD continues that sorded, dabblers. In truth, sales and so on, It will be among are looking very volume of NetBSD OS I do, because Rival distribution, over the same lost its earlier going to continue, knows for sure what Development. BSD is dying.Things may do, may not OF AMERICA) is the 'first post' may be hurting the on my Pentium Pro to keep up as gawker At most BSD's filesystem a way to spend have their moments gone Romeo and out how to make the The last night of

Someone needs to do something (5, Funny)

SeanTobin (138474) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691759)

This is a problem. Children, not only in the US but all across the world are using simple statistical analysis to break and decypher our national language. Nearly all of our nuclear, biological, chemical, and conventional weapons are created and deployed using this language. We must act.

But what can we as a nation do? We do not need any additional laws, we must only enforce the laws we have. Reverse engineering of this and other national secrets is strictly forbidden by the DMCA. Just because they are minors doesn't mean we can't sue them.

Will someone please think of the children? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10692111)

Mrs. Lovejoy was obviously an agent for the deparment of Homeland Security.

Wow (2, Funny)

IamNotAgeek (708764) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691763)

After reading this I have been underestimting how smart babies are. Makes me wonder where all that intelligence goes after they grow up.

And for parents (2, Funny)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691769)

What I need is "How to Crack the Infant Code?" for parents.

Not sure what the hell "la la da ta bwa bwa" means.

John/

Re:And for parents (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692077)

It is very interesting listening to children make language mistakes. "Me want food" and "On the TV" was common with my 2.5 year old daughter. You could argue that the daughter has it correct and adults are making the errors. Maybe there's no unified language, but the children seem to grasp many of the rules first and *then* build a list of exceptions.

Sequence (1)

shubert1966 (739403) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691770)

1) Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Being born sucks! 2) Ummmm - yummi. More than I exists. Consume. 3) Hey! I could get more if I . . .

A cattle prod up the ass .... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691778)

works wonders for teaching and training.

This article sounds kind of boring (1)

sean@thingsihate.org (121677) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691782)

someone read it and tell me if it'll help me learn german faster

Somebody's been watching the smart kids (1)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691786)

Other kids just realize words give them more complete mastery over their parents.

What??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691789)

Babies on crack and speed??

gmail invites (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691808)

I remember it well in '59 (2, Funny)

Skiron (735617) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691812)

New data shows that infants use computational strategies to detect patterns in language...

I used the 'hot wire' method, 'cos Cobol wasn't invented.

The Real Question (2, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691813)

The next real question is how children who have learning dificulties in language learn language. I know I have always have the problem dealing with human language but I have always been very good at Compter Language (Ever sience I was in kindergarden) It make me wonder if we can figure out how people with learning dificulties learn language perhaps one method may be a lot easier to program? Although it may not be as good as the average person but it can be good enough to get most programs to understand language. Or perhaps we should see how a Genius in language learns perhaps his method is extramly optimized and may work in computers.

Not that difficult... (5, Insightful)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691815)

Watch a baby for it first year, and listen to it. You will find that babies just start making noise from thier mouths. When the sounds match what the other people say, they do it more, and when they get rewards for making certain sounds they really go with those. You know like when they say MAMA, and everyone in the room goes crazy. It's simple, and well known.

Re:Not that difficult... (1)

brpr (826904) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691935)

Please, these naive behaviouist views of language aquisition were discredited decades ago.

Re:Not that difficult... (2, Interesting)

La Camiseta (59684) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691999)

There's a few different opposing views about this early babbling. At such an early age a baby doesn't really have very much muscular control at all (if you've held a newborn, you know what I mean), and this is where the difference of opinion comes about.

One school thinks that the very early babbling and screaches and crying that a baby does actually works out the vocal cords and allows them to experiment with new sounds, learning how to make new sounds and such. You'll also notice that early on, babies tend to make sounds that aren't native to the spoken language around them, such as the uvular fricatives, which don't exist in English.

The other thinks that this very early babbling is attempting to speak, like what you've said.

While I agree with this once the child has learned to use their vocal cords and are actually making attempts to communicate, I believe that the first few bits of babbling and such are most likely the child attempting to gain control over his/her body.

Explains a lot (5, Funny)

mr_z_beeblebrox (591077) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691819)

'There is evidence that infants analyse the statistical distributions of sounds that they hear in ambient language, and use this information to form phonemic categories.

No wonder babies are so socially awkward, they're statisticians.

Yeah (3, Funny)

DoctorHibbert (610548) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691838)

That's pretty much how I remember learning to talk.

Somewhat related... (1)

YodaToo (776221) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691844)

I actually did my dissertation research on getting computers to bootstrap noun/verb acquisition based on visual perception of short videos accompanied by textual descriptions, but no hardcoded vocabulary.

Short paper here [cornell.edu]

More info at sig link.

Good, but what about sign language? (3, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691846)

This is nice and all, but I'd be interested in comparing how babies and toddlers learn spoken languages vs. non-spoken ones like American Sign Lanugage or Nicaraguan Sign Language [japantimes.co.jp] .

I hope we figure this out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691866)

My son is autistic, and his brain isn't wired for speech the most kids are. I sincerely hope they figure it out so that perhaps they could help him someday.

Not much new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691867)

It's difficult to tell from the abstract whether there is anything new here, but it seems not.
There has been a lot of research showing that children are sensitive to statistical regularities (Saffran and Newport is the basic case) but this seems related to prosody, and prosody is not a good guide to syntax in general. English is slightly exceptional in that prosodic boundaries (e.g. syllables) align with syntactic boundaries (e.g. words) this isn't true in general.

The idea that this sort of information can help you learn syntax, which is the real problem, is profoundly misguided, but unfortunately quite widely held.

Babies are like sponges (2, Insightful)

chia_monkey (593501) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691868)

This goes along with a few other theories of learning. It's often been suggested that it's much easier to learn a language at an early age than it is when you're older. I remember picking up French back in sixth grade and wanting to take more classes but we moved and they didn't offer a language until high school in my new town. By that point, I took Spanish and yet kept throwing in a French accent, French numbers, French alphabet, etc. Think of how quickly a baby picks up a language as opposed to an older person. It's a world of difference.

My point is, I don't think it's for simply learning a language. A baby is like an incredibly sponge of information. Of course they are...they have nothing else to do but just soak in their surroundings and learn. And learn. And learn some more.

In addition to being a bit more receptive to learning (and having nothing better to do), I think the younger mind also learns at a higher rate because they don't have to UNLEARN so much, or go around all the rules they've been taught for the past decade or two. Just soak it in, and you're done.

speaking in reverse (1)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691898)

I've heard something about infants speaking in reverse.

Anyone with a little child around and willing to try?
look at this page for more detils [reversespeech.com]

Ok so how did I come accross this? Art Bell (late night am talk show wacko) used to have this guest on about reverse speech. The guest would have audio clips played foward, and then backwards. And when played backwards, a quick message would be heard. Supposedly, this message was the subconscious speaking and the truth to the lie would be told when the audio was played backwards.

grump.

Learning method.. (1)

IvanD (719006) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691902)

I think the intuitive method of learning should work fine. The problem arrives when someone starts teaching you how to learn.

When you get to a place knowing nothing about the language you can get even more than being taught by someone.

Self learning is the best way to learn... unfortunately nobody pays you to learn what you want but what you should.

The question remains (0, Offtopic)

Aliencow (653119) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691909)

Do they play ogg ?

better learning (2, Insightful)

austad (22163) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691922)

Could this lead to better language learning courses?

Most of the language courses I've seen do not work well for how I think. They probably work well for how the author thinks, but everyone learns differently. Design a course based around research like this might be beneficial as everyone has already learned their primary language using this method.

Not THAT much to it, overthinking it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10691923)

I really think these people are overthinking the whole concept of "cracking the speech code" and whatnot. Infants do two things: React and imitate. They do whatever they can to GET ATTENTION. They cry when they want attention and they get it. When getting attention, the parents will baby talk to the child... and what does the child do? Imitate. The child will continue to imitate until it comprehends words and the results it will get them. ba-ba becomes "bottle" and so forth.

Feels like they're trying to use a 30 page term paper to explain how a blouse button works.

Fascinating (2, Interesting)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691978)

This is absolutely amazing.

I have a great interest in language (and dialects) and am currently teaching myself Japanese and then Dutch (I pick the easy ones right?) and I've always thought that if I were to just learn their language with materials from grade schools and stuff like that, it would be much easier to learn. Think about it, remember all those dumb little rules about language you learn when you're little? Well, you learn that in grade school, with materials geared for children. The "teach yourself japanese" stuff out there does not address things in as simple a manner, which really is best to do if its a completely alien way of thinking (order of japanese sentences compared to english).

I wonder if one day when they can make "brain software" if they'll be able to translate this concept into software to help us learn native languages.

Perhaps a more practical present use for it would be to create an automatic language deciphering device, much like you would see on Star Trek.

Infants crack more than speech (0, Offtopic)

FerretFrottage (714136) | more than 9 years ago | (#10691995)

...they also crack their parents. Want to hear the most annoying sound in the world? Try a colicky baby at 3 AM (or for this crowd since you are still awake at 3AM, while'll you're trying to play in a CS tournament and know someone is sneaking up on you).

Want to hear to greatest sound in the world? "Dada"

Always found this interesting (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692051)

Especially with how young children can pick up many languages easily... It boggles my mind that they can learn so many so fast. I don't understand how the older you get the worst you get at learning things such as new languages...

but then again i wish i could learn new languages :-\

Feral Children (4, Interesting)

gustgr (695173) | more than 9 years ago | (#10692088)

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