Judit GervainINCC-UMR8002, Language & Cognition group, Université de Paris, France
How infants start learning the grammar of their native language, by Judit Gervain
Learning a new language is a challenging task. Yet, very young infants master their native language(s) in just a few years with ease and without any explicit teaching. Learning the grammar has been argued to be a particularly difficult learning problem, as speech contains very few direct cues to the underlying grammatical structure of sentences. Decades of research in developmental psychology has tried to identify the mechanisms that allow infants to achieve this feat. This talk will focus on the earliest mechanisms of grammar learning. It will argue that prenatal speech experience, i.e. speech heard in the womb, already lays the foundations of grammar learning, which thus starts very early on. A series of behavioral and brain imaging studies with newborns and young infants will be presented establishing some of the main mechanisms of this early learning, specifically prosodic and frequency-based bootstrapping, as well as their underlying brain mechanisms.
Judit Gervain’s bibliography: