According to lead author Alison Bruderer, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Audiology and Speech Sciences at UBC, the findings call into question previous assumptions about speech and language development.
“Until now, research in speech perception development and language acquisition has primarily used the auditory experience as the driving factor,” Bruderer said. “Researchers should actually be looking at babies’ oral-motor movements as well.”
The authors emphasized that the study does not mean parents should take their babies’ soothers and teething toys away, but it does raise questions about how much “free tongue movement” time infants need for speech perception to develop normally. It also has implications for speech perception in infants with motor impairments of the mouth, such as cleft palate, tongue-tie, or paralysis. The authors also note that their study indicates that moving their tongues and other articulators when they listen to speech may be an important factor in babies’ perception of the sounds.
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