Handbook of Language and Literacy Development - a Roadmap from 0 to 60 Months

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Listening (10 – 12 Months) – Expanding Comprehensionclick to print Print
Research Review / Parent

Written by: Carrie Gotzke and Heather Sample Gosse, University of Alberta

Listening continues to provide opportunities for infants to learn about the prosodic, sound and syllable structure of their caregivers’ speech. Infants in the ten- to twelve-month period are demonstrating new understanding of speech through their increased responsiveness to words and phrases. Listening develops within the framework of interactions between infants and caregivers. For more information on this framework, please refer to Interacting 10 – 12 Months.

Listening Comprehension

In the ten- to twelve-month period, infants respond with greater consistency to a wider variety of words in their caregivers’ speech. Ten-month-old infants are able to obey some commands (Owens, 2001). Researchers found that eleven-month-old infants responded to about fifty words (Sachs, 2005). The infants responded to words that referred to people (e.g., mommy), words from games and routines (e.g., peek-a-boo) and names for objects (e.g., ball). By twelve months, infants react to their own names and to the intonation for “no” (Owens, 2001). As well, twelve-month-old infants are able to follow simple directions (e.g., wave bye-bye), particularly if accompanied by a visual model.

By eleven months, responsiveness to requests increases to 52%. Similar to nine-month-old infants, eleven-month-old infants respond more frequently to requests for action as opposed to requests for vocalization. Variable responding allows infants more control in communication interactions with caregivers.

Sound and Language Discrimination

By ten- to twelve-months-old, infants can no longer discriminate sound categories that are not functional in the language of their environment (Menn & Stoel-Gammon, 2005). Researchers have found that, by twelve months, English-speaking infants’ performance on discrimination tasks for sounds in Hindi is at the same low level as English-speaking adults.

Gotzke, C. & Sample Gosse, H. (2007). Research Review: Listening 10 - 12 Months. In L.M. Phillips (Ed.), Handbook of language and literacy development: A Roadmap from 0 - 60 Months. [online], p. 1. London, ON: Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network. Available at: Handbook of language and literacy development