US Study Shows Babies Understand Words at Six Months

by Cassandra R. Elias

In the News: Babies Understand Word Meanings!

Six Month Olds Understand Word MeaningsDoes your six-month-old understand more than you know? Researches at the University of Pennsylvania think so. They have just concluded in a new study that babies aged between six and nine months can understand the meaning of common words before they can even speak them!

"Kids at this age aren't saying anything, they're not pointing, they're not walking," study researcher Erika Bergelson, of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. "But actually, under the surface, they're trying to put together the things in the world with the words that go with them."

Previously, most researchers believed that babies could only understand the sounds of their native language but not the meaning behind them.

The results of this study were recently published February 13, 2012 in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” In the first demonstrations, they showed that 33 babies could actually understand the words the researchers chose to test with in controlled conditions. They showed the babies a screen with images of two objects, tracked their eye movements when their parent asked them about one of the objects. The example cited was, “Where is the apple?”

They concluded that babies are more likely to focus their gaze on the correct picture, which indicates that they understand the word associated with the correct object.

"There had been a few demonstrations of understanding before, involving words like mommy and daddy," lead researcher Dr Daniel Swingley said. "Our study is different in looking at more generic words, words that refer to categories."

Dr Swingley added, "I think this study presents a great message to parents: You can talk to your babies, and they're going to understand a bit of what you're saying. They're not going to give us back witty repartee, but they understand some of it. And the more they know, the more they can build on what they know."

To help why this new study is so important, babies don’t speak in words or gesture meaningfully before they are at least 10 or 11 months old.

What have you noticed with your six month old? Share your comments here!

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