Nonhuman primate vocalizations support categorization in very young human infants

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Language is a signature of our species and our primary conduit for conveying the contents of our minds. The power of language derives not only from the exquisite detail of the signal itself but also from its intricate link to human cognition. To acquire a language, infants must identify which signals are part of their language and discover how these signals are linked to meaning. At birth, infants prefer listening to vocalizations of human and nonhuman primates; within 3 mo, this initially broad listening preference is tuned specifically to human vocalizations. Moreover, even at this early developmental point, human vocalizations evoke more than listening preferences alone: they engender in infants a heightened focus on the objects in their visual environment and promote the formation of object categories, a fundamental cognitive capacity. Here, we illuminate the developmental origin of this early link between human vocalizations and cognition. We document that this link emerges from a broad biological template that initially encompasses vocalizations of human and nonhuman primates (but not backward speech) and that within 6 mo this link to cognition is tuned specifically to human vocalizations. At 3 and 4 mo, nonhuman primate vocalizations promote object categorization, mirroring precisely the advantages conferred by human vocalizations, but by 6 mo, nonhuman primate vocalizations no longer exert this advantageous effect. This striking developmental shift illuminates a path of specialization that supports infants as they forge the foundational links between human language and the core cognitive processes that will serve as the foundations of meaning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15231-15235
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume110
Issue number38
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 17 2013

Fingerprint

Primates
Language
Cognition
Parturition

Keywords

  • Conceptual development
  • Developmental tuning
  • Infancy
  • Language acquisition
  • Language and thought

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

@article{5dc35a6e171b4089a3e1574a95caeabb,
title = "Nonhuman primate vocalizations support categorization in very young human infants",
abstract = "Language is a signature of our species and our primary conduit for conveying the contents of our minds. The power of language derives not only from the exquisite detail of the signal itself but also from its intricate link to human cognition. To acquire a language, infants must identify which signals are part of their language and discover how these signals are linked to meaning. At birth, infants prefer listening to vocalizations of human and nonhuman primates; within 3 mo, this initially broad listening preference is tuned specifically to human vocalizations. Moreover, even at this early developmental point, human vocalizations evoke more than listening preferences alone: they engender in infants a heightened focus on the objects in their visual environment and promote the formation of object categories, a fundamental cognitive capacity. Here, we illuminate the developmental origin of this early link between human vocalizations and cognition. We document that this link emerges from a broad biological template that initially encompasses vocalizations of human and nonhuman primates (but not backward speech) and that within 6 mo this link to cognition is tuned specifically to human vocalizations. At 3 and 4 mo, nonhuman primate vocalizations promote object categorization, mirroring precisely the advantages conferred by human vocalizations, but by 6 mo, nonhuman primate vocalizations no longer exert this advantageous effect. This striking developmental shift illuminates a path of specialization that supports infants as they forge the foundational links between human language and the core cognitive processes that will serve as the foundations of meaning.",
keywords = "Conceptual development, Developmental tuning, Infancy, Language acquisition, Language and thought",
author = "Ferry, {Alissa L.} and Hespos, {Susan J} and Waxman, {Sandra R}",
year = "2013",
month = "10",
day = "17",
doi = "10.1073/pnas.1221166110",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "110",
pages = "15231--15235",
journal = "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America",
issn = "0027-8424",
number = "38",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Nonhuman primate vocalizations support categorization in very young human infants

AU - Ferry, Alissa L.

AU - Hespos, Susan J

AU - Waxman, Sandra R

PY - 2013/10/17

Y1 - 2013/10/17

N2 - Language is a signature of our species and our primary conduit for conveying the contents of our minds. The power of language derives not only from the exquisite detail of the signal itself but also from its intricate link to human cognition. To acquire a language, infants must identify which signals are part of their language and discover how these signals are linked to meaning. At birth, infants prefer listening to vocalizations of human and nonhuman primates; within 3 mo, this initially broad listening preference is tuned specifically to human vocalizations. Moreover, even at this early developmental point, human vocalizations evoke more than listening preferences alone: they engender in infants a heightened focus on the objects in their visual environment and promote the formation of object categories, a fundamental cognitive capacity. Here, we illuminate the developmental origin of this early link between human vocalizations and cognition. We document that this link emerges from a broad biological template that initially encompasses vocalizations of human and nonhuman primates (but not backward speech) and that within 6 mo this link to cognition is tuned specifically to human vocalizations. At 3 and 4 mo, nonhuman primate vocalizations promote object categorization, mirroring precisely the advantages conferred by human vocalizations, but by 6 mo, nonhuman primate vocalizations no longer exert this advantageous effect. This striking developmental shift illuminates a path of specialization that supports infants as they forge the foundational links between human language and the core cognitive processes that will serve as the foundations of meaning.

AB - Language is a signature of our species and our primary conduit for conveying the contents of our minds. The power of language derives not only from the exquisite detail of the signal itself but also from its intricate link to human cognition. To acquire a language, infants must identify which signals are part of their language and discover how these signals are linked to meaning. At birth, infants prefer listening to vocalizations of human and nonhuman primates; within 3 mo, this initially broad listening preference is tuned specifically to human vocalizations. Moreover, even at this early developmental point, human vocalizations evoke more than listening preferences alone: they engender in infants a heightened focus on the objects in their visual environment and promote the formation of object categories, a fundamental cognitive capacity. Here, we illuminate the developmental origin of this early link between human vocalizations and cognition. We document that this link emerges from a broad biological template that initially encompasses vocalizations of human and nonhuman primates (but not backward speech) and that within 6 mo this link to cognition is tuned specifically to human vocalizations. At 3 and 4 mo, nonhuman primate vocalizations promote object categorization, mirroring precisely the advantages conferred by human vocalizations, but by 6 mo, nonhuman primate vocalizations no longer exert this advantageous effect. This striking developmental shift illuminates a path of specialization that supports infants as they forge the foundational links between human language and the core cognitive processes that will serve as the foundations of meaning.

KW - Conceptual development

KW - Developmental tuning

KW - Infancy

KW - Language acquisition

KW - Language and thought

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84884343847&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84884343847&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1073/pnas.1221166110

DO - 10.1073/pnas.1221166110

M3 - Article

VL - 110

SP - 15231

EP - 15235

JO - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

JF - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

SN - 0027-8424

IS - 38

ER -