Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies


Great video and new data on morpheme recognition (distinction) in infants. This is not a new idea. This has been rather well known for years, but the new technology allows for better measurement of this phenomenon. In short, babies are excellent at recognizing and distinguishing sounds from any language, given exposure, up until around 6-8 months. This ability falls off later.

Given the brevity of the presentation, I can’t criticize her too much, but her description of the critical period and what it means to learn a language is certainly not complete. In fact, from what we see here, it is downright misinformed. Her comment that no scientist doubts that a critical period exists (as presented on the chart) is absolutely wrong. In reality, many do.

She is talking almost entirely about sound recognition and distinction, but she uses an SLA theory on language that involves so much more. It’s always difficult to mix-in theories from different fields without operationalizing your terms. I’m going to guess that’s where the 10-minute time limit is restricting.

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