Scientists Get Glimpse Into Infant Language Learning | The Institute for Creation Research

Scientists Get Glimpse Into Infant Language Learning

The developing human brain learns language at a remarkably accelerated rate starting at about one year old. But even at six months, baby brains begin to log basic language foundations. After several months, when toddlers have acquired language fundamentals, the brain soon transitions out of its language acquisition mode. Research continues to unravel the intricate causes of this miraculously wrought language learning time window.

During primary language acquisition, infants quickly learn how to form the right sounds of their native language using the complicated mixtures of throat, lip, tongue, and diaphragm muscles. They also rapidly learn the basic units of their language, like the structure of words, suffixes, and tones. Simultaneously, they acquire the grammatical rules that govern sentence structure, like where adjectives are placed in relation to nouns.

Not to be forgotten during this remarkable time is an infant's rapid identification of what the sounds and structure of a language actually mean—the realities to which a language's sound symbols actually refer. Children at this age learn from 10 to 15 new words each day and infer the vast majority of word meanings by automatically analyzing context.1 In short, researchers have discovered that the infant human brain is hardwired to learn language.

A University of Washington study imaged 19 six-month-old brain structures with MRI technology. They measured the concentration of neuron-rich gray matter, comparing it to the concentration of white matter in the babies' whole brains. They discovered "a surprising result."2

In adults, the cerebellum coordinates motor learning as it develops efficient neural pathways to muscle action. Also in adult brains, the hippocampus is a memory processor. Neither is linked to language.

But the study results showed that "infants with a greater concentration of gray and white matter in the cerebellum and the hippocampus showed greater language ability at age 1."2 Use of the cerebellum at this time may show how infants master the coordination for speech so quickly, and using the hippocampus may reflect how they memorize meanings for language sounds. It appears that the structure of baby brains shifts in just the right ways for them to acquire human language.

No animal on earth matches this capacity for expressing abstract ideas, and no animal's brain undergoes such a remarkable shift in multiple, coordinated language learning schemes. This new research shows a glimpse of the Creator's handiwork in equipping people to develop into beings that share His image, by sharing His ability to use language.3

References

  1. Landauer, T. K, and S. T. Dumais. 1997. A solution to Plato's problem: The latent semantic analysis theory of acquisition. Psychological Review. 104: 211–240.
  2. McElroy, M. Brain structure of infants predicts language skills at 1 year. University of Washington News press release, January 22, 2013. Reporting results in Can, D. D., T. Richards, and P. K. Kuhl. 2013. Early gray-matter and white-matter concentration in infancy predict later language skills: A whole brain voxel-based morphometry study. Brain and Language. 124 (1): 34-44.
  3. Thomas, B. 2010. Human Language: An All or Nothing Proposition. Acts & Facts. 39 (6): 18. 

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on February 4, 2013.

The Latest
CREATION.LIVE PODCAST
Can Scripture Be Trusted? | Creation.Live Podcast: Episode 8
Both believers and skeptics can find themselves asking if Scripture can be taken at its word. Is it scientifically accurate? Can its history be trusted?...

NEWS
Cambrian Soft Tissue Defies Evolution
Paleontologists have discovered “early fossils [of] simple hollow tubes ranging from a few millimetres to many centimetres in length.”1...

NEWS
Fruit Fly Jitters
Researchers working with fruit flies–the ubiquitous lab animal–have discovered the flies are able to undergo an amazing ocular process called...

CREATION PODCAST
Can Radioisotope Dating Be Trusted? | The Creation Podcast: Episode...
Carbon dating is a common method used to determine the ages of fossils and other materials, but carbon14 deteriorates quite quickly. How can it still...

NEWS
Prepare for the Big Non-Event!
In 1950 the famed Italian physicist Enrico Fermi asked his coworkers at the lunch table the simple metaphysical question in regard to possible aliens...

NEWS
Move Toward the Enemy: Fighting for Truth in Science
Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the...

NEWS
Evolving Mammals?
The evolution of mammals from non-mammals, like the evolution of all other animal groups, has been, and will always be, problematic. English paleontologist...

NEWS
Butterfly Variation
Butterflies have made science news again, this time in regard to a master gene called WntA: “a combined team of researchers from Cornell University...

CREATION PODCAST
How Old Is The Universe? | The Creation Podcast: Episode 35
Many scientists claim that the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old by reverse-engineering the Big Bang with the assumption that this theory...

NEWS
Massive Tsunamis Generated by the Flood, Not an Asteroid
Two separate studies claim massive tsunamis and earthquakes from an asteroid impact profoundly affected the rock record. One research team modeled a...