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Infants pay more attention to native language cues: study

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London: Nearly from the moment of birth, human beings possess the capacity to distinguish between speakers of their native language and other language, reports IANS. Thus, they pay more attention to native language cues in deciding where to place their focus as well as adopt to the native speakers’ cultural behaviour, a study has found.

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“The study reveals the great importance of cultural and linguistic similarity in how infants choose to direct their attention,” said Hanna Marno from the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.


The findings show how infants and young children are tuned to quickly acquire the knowledge of their society and adapt to their cultural environment, Marno added. In the study, the researchers determined to know whether young babies would selectively pay attention to different speakers in their environment, even when they do not understand the meaning of the words.

They conducted an experiment that included forty 12-month-old infants, who first listened to two adult female speakers – one in their native language of Italian, the other in Slovenian – for two minutes.

The infants then observed movies of both women – the native and non-native speaker separately – gazing at two colourful objects. The results showed that the infants focused on the object that had first been presented by the native speaker for a longer period of time.

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Even though language was not directly related to the objects, infants appeared to be making linguistic distinctions in their object preferences. The experiment proved that listening to native speakers affects infants’ behaviour, the study observed.

Humans have a hard-wired preference for own language patterns, so much so that the cries of very young infants reflect the melodies of their native language, the researchers said, in the paper recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.