Cross-Language Analysis of Phonetic Units in Language Addressed to Infants

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Science  01 Aug 1997:
Vol. 277, Issue 5326, pp. 684-686
DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5326.684

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In the early months of life, infants acquire information about the phonetic properties of their native language simply by listening to adults speak. The acoustic properties of phonetic units in language input to young infants in the United States, Russia, and Sweden were examined. In all three countries, mothers addressing their infants produced acoustically more extreme vowels than they did when addressing adults, resulting in a “stretching” of vowel space. The findings show that language input to infants provides exceptionally well-specified information about the linguistic units that form the building blocks for words.

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