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At what age do babies understand human speech?

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posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 11:12 AM
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At what age do babies understand human speech?

This isn’t just an abstract question, because there’s a personal application. I’m doing detective work on the dating of a couple of early memories.

In the first memory, I’m lying in a cot by the window. It feels like the morning light.
I can remember a definite thought process. Whether verbal or non-verbal, I’m not sure. I wasn’t confident enough to claim verbal thinking, the last time I mentioned this episode on ATS, so I talked of “being aware of” the stages of thought. But that is part of the question at issue.

Either way, the process went roughly like this;
I want to get out of this cot.
The trouble is, I can’t manage that thing which lets down the side [A simple hook-and-eye catch, I know from later observation]
But if I cry, somebody will come and do it for me.
So I will cry.

It worked, up to a point. In due course, the door opened (right-hand end of the opposite wall) and my father appeared in the doorway.
Unfortunately, the memory stops there, and I don’t know what happened next.
Was I released from prison?
“He would have thrown some toys into the cot”, my mother said when I told her the story. I don’t think that would have contented me.
Or did he react by telling me to be quiet? Was the rest of the scene too traumatic to be remembered?

In the other memory, I am lying on the parental bed, while my mother is saying to me;
“It’s going to be your birthday…
Not tomorrow
Not the next day
Nor the next day…
But the next day!”
There was a sequence of “not the next day”, in fact, but I can’t vouch for the exact number. And I don’t know whether I attached any meaning to the word “birthday”, but I understood the rest.

Now which birthday did she mean?
There is a known date which may be relevant here. It seems that I spoke my first words when my brother was born, and my brother was born when I was two and a half years old. (My first words are on record as “Baby budda”.)
If this conversation took place after I learned to speak, the next birthday would be my third.

But had I learned to speak?
My mother was addressing me in those coy tones that mothers use to babies when they’re not expecting any response.
And nothing in my memory suggests that I did respond, or ask any of the obvious questions.
For that matter, nothing in my memory suggests that I was moving about very much. I think I just lay there and absorbed this interesting information. Too passive, surely, for a three-year old.
The implication is that my ears were coping with human speech at least six months before my mouth had mastered the art.

Another angle has occurred to me only recently. There is the momentous possibility that the second memory I’ve been describing was the immediate sequel of the first.
This proposition reflects back onto the first memory in some interesting ways.
In the first place, we get a satisfactory answer to the puzzle of “what happened next?” He did not throw toys into the cot, and he did not shout at me; he just picked me up and carried me through into the next bedroom.
And if I was capable of understanding words five minutes later, I must have been capable of using them in my mind. Perhaps the cunning plan of “If I cry, somebody will come and let me out”, really was worked through in that verbal form.
Finally, the implication is that the first memory may be given the same date as the second memory, a few days before a birthday of some kind.

So now I must appeal to those who know babies better than I do.
Is it the best conclusion, that the approaching birthday was my second birthday?
Or it is permissible to speculate that it might even have been my first?



edit on 16-6-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)




posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 11:36 AM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

Thanks for the interesting post!
You might enjoy reading The Prism of Grammar: How Child Language Illuminates Humanism. It's a fascinating look into the complexity of language and the process of acquisition, and the premise (if I remember correctly) is that we are born with our brains already wired for grammar.
www.goodreads.com...
Here's an article discussing Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar (Hardwired for grammar):
www.medicaldaily.com...

This was a fun read.
edit on 16-6-2018 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 11:38 AM
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I do believe that some people experience early memories.
I even floated the idea of birth memories in a thread on here a while ago. Some good examples here....
ats thread

I have early memories that my parents tell me I should not be able to articulate. Some from as early as 5/6 months old.
Pretty weird.

It's my opinion that our minds can take extremely early snapshots of moments.
Although medically speaking our brains are still developing memory storage functions.

Edit to add...sorry I just checked the link and realised that you had in fact posted in that old thread !! Haha
So much for memory retention !
Yikes

edit on 16/6/18 by cosmickat because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 11:39 AM
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I think the process of becoming self aware/ understanding speech is a gradual one. There's no "Eureka!", just a progression of learning. We may remember an "aha!" moment but it started long before that.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 11:42 AM
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Homo sapiens infant brains are in constant overdrive to 'wire up', as they arent 'at all' at birth. By around 10 months there is significant wiring as for example, in the Chinese language there are two (to them) distinct sounds (words), but to our brains they both sound identical. By 10 months of non-exposure to this we've completely lost our ability to perceive the difference, and there's no getting it back.

I included some bits about this, from a brain documentary, in my "PRIMAL":
www.abovetopsecret.com...

There's also some bits from another documentary specific to human language, Stephen Fry's Planet Word. And you might also check out Noam Chomsky.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 11:43 AM
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Response given from the Father of 5 Children and 12 Grandchildren....

When they figure it out! Each child is different. Some are quicker to learn than others. Life should've taught you that, and by your question it seems you're still figuring out the basics. It'll come with time...

Your question is the equivalent of asking, "How far away are the Stars?"

a reply to: DISRAELI



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 11:48 AM
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a reply to: zosimov
Thank you for that link. I will make a note.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 11:57 AM
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originally posted by: SecretsoftheBlueApples
Life should've taught you that, and by your question it seems you're still figuring out the basics. It'll come with time...

I've already had plenty of time, but life hasn't given me the opportunity for close observation of babies.
In the time that remains to me, I'm not expecting this to be remedied. (Though one of my great-grandmothers was conceived when her father was in his eighties).
Hence the idea of throwing the question open to people who HAVE had close contact with growing children.

P.S. If you despise the general question in the title, what are your thoughts on the more specific question at the end?

edit on 16-6-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 12:04 PM
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I recall from past research (when I became a father) that babies understand from the age of six to 12 months. Gradually, they are able to formulate a response in their mind, like "yes" and "oh", but they may understand words.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 12:06 PM
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a reply to: paraphi
Thank you. That rather favours the "first birthday" option.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 12:09 PM
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a reply to: cosmickat
Yep. That's the thread where I went with "thoughts from a time before I knew language", which was an appealing idea in itself.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 12:22 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

Instead of focusing on when we might understand language; dig into how our brains store, create, and flat out make up memories. Our brains are tricking us or doing amazing things we dont understand all the time.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 12:25 PM
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a reply to: Atsbhct
The reason for focussing on "when" was that I was trying to pin down an approximate date in my own biography.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 12:51 PM
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Tough question. Language acquisition is not solid science. But maybe you didn’t understand what she said then, then but no less remembered it, grammar, syntax and everything, and are able to understand it only after understanding the language. There are theories that grammar and such are innate.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 01:02 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope
That's possible. It's true that I do remember the exact sounds of what she was saying, including the tone of voice.
(I still have good memory for exact words in dialogue, because I hear them like a tape-recorder)
But would I have been able to retain those sounds if I could attach no meaning to them at all? I have a much earlier memory of falling downstairs (rolling in a ball, according to adult report), which is completely soundless, despite both parents being visible on the scene. My theory is that I could not interpret whatever sounds they were making, so my mind did not bother to record them.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 01:05 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: LesMisanthrope
That's possible. It's true that I do remember the exact sounds of what she was saying, including the tone of voice.
(I still have good memory for exact words in dialogue, because I hear them like a tape-recorder)
But would I have been able to retain those sounds if I could attach no meaning to them at all? I have a much earlier memory of falling downstairs (rolling in a ball, according to adult report), which is completely soundless, despite both parents being visible on the scene. My theory is that I could not interpret whatever sounds they were making, so my mind did not bother to record them.




There could be better ways of dating a memory if you can remember any other details.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 01:12 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope
I've already given all the details I can remember about the OP memories.
The "falling downstairs" memory is almost purely visual. My mother on the landing above, my father in the parallel corridor below. It contains no thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations. I might as well have been floating. The "curling into a ball" detail comes from what my father told our class in a later year, though the ability presumably suggests an early date.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 01:15 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: LesMisanthrope
I've already given all the details I can remember about the OP memories.
The "falling downstairs" memory is almost purely visual. My mother on the landing above, my father in the parallel corridor below. It contains no thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations. I might as well have been floating. The "curling into a ball" detail comes from what my father told our class in a later year, though the ability presumably suggests an early date.



You have a great memory. I forget what I was doing yesterday.

Were they wearing bell-bottoms?



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 01:16 PM
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Children are aware as soon as they are born, in fact they already sense things and are learning what is needed while in the womb. A colt stands almost immediately after it is born, our species is different, we are aware a different way when we are born. We have a spirit and soul and ability to comprehend some things, tones of voices are more of a learning curve at birth than understanding language. Baby talk is structured, part of our primordial language of Humans. Some of our pronunciation of words actually are related to our primordial language. Babies can actually understand a little just by these sounds. In the Bible it talks about babbling the language, that was done a long time ago. We have a genetic language just like every animal alive. Ka, Ra, Sa, Pa, are part of that and those sounds are actually found in ancient Hebrew and old languages out of Africa earlier than Hebrew. They are also found in India but seem to be of a different interpretation in lot of Chinese language than in other parts of the world. Ka...communicate...say or hear..read or understand. Kall me at home. Kamunication. It is still in our language, there are people who make speeches or teach media for people know these sounds well, they hit the soul of humans, often these sounds are used to BS us, they are used by both good and evil.

If you think you are immune to these sounds, then you are defective, listen to baby talk and how people talk to babies, these sounds are so engrained into our minds that we interpret things to match these sounds without even knowing it. We translate everything into the primordial language, usually while we sleep at night. Sometimes our dreams are actually our minds converting this so the kid in us can understand. Babbling of the language allowed people to control our comprehention, by keeping us from being able to communicate directly. We followed the leader we could understand and were trained to follow the of a kind relationship which split people apart.



posted on Jun, 16 2018 @ 01:21 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope
They were both looking in my direction (so there must have been audible sounds, anyway), and my father was recognisable by his spectacles. This was well before the hippy era, though.




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