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Babies understand what their mothers are saying even though they do not know the language she is speaking, according to new research by British scientists.
The study proves what parents have known for years - that babies pick up on the tone of their mother's voice rather than her words. Researchers showed that babies reacted in the same way to mum's voice regardless if she is speaking English or Greek. The scientists studied reactions from one-year-old babies to their mum's voice even when she was speaking either languages. Babies watched their mothers perform actions with toys using the English words "whoops" and "there". And the same process was repeated in Greek with the same tone in the voice.
Study leader Dr Merideth Gattis, of Cardiff University's School of Psychology, said: "What this work showed as that children could have access to understanding using simply the tone of voice.
"We did "whoops" and "there" in two languages and got exactly the same results - whether in English or Greek, which none of the children understood." The research published in the journal Cognitive Development was conducted with 84 babies, aged between 14 and 18 months, in Cardiff over the course of a year with none of the babies having any previous exposure to Greek.
Dr Gattis said that children respond to "tone" clues in their parents' speech from an early age.
She said: "Tone of voice is a really useful signal to what someone is thinking.
"We never have access through to other people's minds, except the signals in language that we give out."
She said that the study results meant that it was less important what parents said, but "how they said it".
She said that even swearing, or anger could theoretically be "covered up" by disguising tone - but that it was better to use another word in its place. CLICK here for full article.
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