Children learn language pretty fast.

But a new study shows that babies who are even a few hours old can tell the difference between their mother tongue and other languages. How do they do it?

Linguist Daniel Midgley gets in touch with his inner child on this episode of Talk the Talk.

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I wasn’t planning to talk about Old English in this podcast. It’s meant to be about babies and how they can hear vowels in the womb. But Ben liked the idea of having a ‘dual pronoun’ — wit was the word for ‘the two of us’ — so he’s bringing it back. I’ll help him. It might not catch on, but wit shall do wit’s best.

There’s also stuff about counting. Can’t get enough about words for numbers.

Show notes

We know babies prefer the language spoken by their mother

and now it seems that they can hear vowel sounds in utero.

In other news, slightly older children can distinguish numbers up to four

but small differences between large numbers sometimes evades them.

Languages handle numbers differently. There are ‘one, two, many’ languages, and even ‘one, two, three, many’ languages, but there aren’t any ‘one, two, three, four, many’ languages.

English used to have dual pronouns.

Show tunes

No, we didn’t play anything from Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’.

‘Salt Water Sound’ by Zero 7
from the album Simple Things

‘Baby Blue’ by Martina Topley-Bird
from the album Some Place Simple