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Language Development in Newborns

Topic Overview

Speech and language lessons start in the uterus, where your developing baby hears and responds to familiar voices. Indeed, soon after birth, your baby prefers and responds more to the mother's voice than to any other. Also, your newborn can recognize whether sounds are part of his or her native language.

Your newborn continues to learn language by listening to the basic and distinct sounds (phonemes), such as the "tr" and "cl" sounds in the English language. Your baby remembers sounds and continually learns more nuances of language, which are later expressed when he or she begins to talk.

Babies learn language skills through frequent interaction, such as reading and being talked to. Newborns respond to "baby talk," which is a higher-pitched, slower speech with emphasis placed on alternating words. Most parents instinctively speak this way to their newborn, gradually incorporating normal speech patterns and pitch.

You provide comforting contact when you read to your baby. Establishing a reading routine early helps make future reading comfortable and fun.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised February 1, 2013

Last Revised: February 1, 2013

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