A Project of the Child Trends News Service Supported by the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences

Babies May Understand Words Before They Can Talk

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Babies typically speak their first words by around 12 months of age, but a new study shows they might understand a lot more than they say.

Babies might sound like they’re speaking their own language, but a new study shows they may understand ours. Researchers from the University of Rochester used eye-tracking technology to see if infants recognized the meaning of certain words. They showed the babies images of objects and had a caregiver name them. At just six months old, babies spent less time looking at the named image when the two objects were related. This implies that they knew that the meanings of some words were more alike than others. For example, they were able to tell words and concepts like “car” and “stroller” were more alike than words like “car” and “juice.”

This study highlights the importance of communicating with your baby. Experts say talk to them as often as you can in a one-on-one environment. Remember: while your baby may not speak it – he still might understand it.

In an earlier 2012 study at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that six to nine-month-olds already had a basic understanding of words for food and body parts.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Julie Marks, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

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