According to a NeuroReport study, children’s sensitivity to the rhythmic properties of language emerges in-utero. Researchers discovered changes in fetal heart rate when exposed to different languages, suggesting babies tend to ‘tune in’ to the language they are going to acquire before they are born. A month before they are born, fetuses carried by American mothers-to-be can distinguish between someone speaking to them in English and Japanese.
Using non-invasive sensing technology from the University of Kansas Medical Center for the first time for this purpose, a group of researchers from KU’s Department of Linguistics has shown this in-utero language discrimination. Their study published in the journal NeuroReport has implications for fetal research in other fields, the lead author says.