seal  Purdue News

November 13, 2003

Infant subjects sought for language development study

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue University audiology and speech sciences professor is looking for infants between the ages of 4 months and 1 year, to participate in a study that may help uncover how the brain organizes itself for language.

Learning language rules
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"Young children are ideal subjects because they are just starting to speak," says Amanda Seidl, who studies how children learn the grammatical and phonological structure of language in Purdue's Infant Speech Lab. "At this time, their language production is limited because their physical attributes, such as their larynx, are still developing. Regardless of these physical limitations, they are actively engaged in learning by perception, and this basic learning gives researchers the best picture of how language is developed and what kind of problems can hinder development."

The studies are less than 30 minutes long, and participants receive a small gift.

In one study the infants are taught a language rule that does not apply to English. For two minutes, the baby listens to a list of words that follows a language rule that they are not familiar with. The language rule does not occur in English, but does occur in many of the world's major languages.

"Once we learn how kids start to learn the rules of language we'll be able to help kids very early on who seem to be lagging behind," Seidl says. "We know very little about phonological rule learning at this early stage of life, and it's only through experiments like this one that we'll get to the point of knowing enough to actually find the relevant diagnostics to help kids with language difficulties early on."

For more information or to participate, contact Seidl at (765) 496-3863.

Support for this study comes from the Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences.

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Source: Amanda Seidl, (765) 496-3863,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Amanda Seidl, assistant professor of audiology and speech sciences, captures the attention of 9-month-old Elizabeth Pearson, who is sitting in the lap of her mom, Judy, before beginning research that studies how babies learn language rules from the sounds of language. The baby listens for two minutes to made-up sentences that follow a language rule that does not occur in English. Then the child is tested to see if that language rule was learned. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger).

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