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Infants Comprehend Some Words As Early As 6 Months

Infants already know the meanings of several common words at 6 months of age, according to a study published online Feb. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Elika Bergelson and Daniel Swingley, Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, presented 6- to 9-month old infants with sets of pictures to view while their parent named a picture in each set.

The researchers found that, over the entire age range, infants directed their gaze to the named pictures, indicating their understanding of spoken words. According to the investigators, because the study involved no word training in the laboratory, the results show that even young infants learn ordinary words through daily experience with language.

"The precocious discovery of word meanings suggests a perspective in which learning vocabulary and learning the sound structure of spoken language go hand in hand as language acquisition begins," the authors write.

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