BabyLab researchers Dr Marina Kalashnikova and Dr Karen Mattock recently participated in a symposium at the Society for Research in Child Development biennial meeting in Philadelphia, USA.
Marina and Karen released the preliminary findings of recent BabyLab studies of word-learning or sound perception using tone.
Based on these findings, they reported that even though English is not a language that uses tones to differentiate words (unlike Madarin or Thai for example), 17-month-old babies learning English are still able to use this information for word learning.
BabyLab Leader Marina Kalashnikova explained, "English uses tones or intonation to change the meaning of a phrase (question vs. statement), so infants at this age are still learning in what cases it is useful to rely on tones as cues for a change in meaning and when it is not."
Overall, these findings suggest that while monolingual and bilingual infants display language-specific sensitivity to tone by nine months, the role of tone as a determinant of word meaning takes considerably longer to mature.
You can find out more about research conducted at MARCS BabyLab by visiting our research page.
If you're interested in helping researchers like Marina and Karen, you can register your baby for our studies by visiting our register page.
BabyLab leader Dr Marina Kalashnikova
BabyLab researcher Dr Karen Mattock