Time to Move the Tongue Freely May Be Required to Develop Speech Perception New data supporting the Motor Theory of Speech Perception indicate that impediments to babies’ tongue movement may affect their ability to decipher speech sounds. Lead author Alison Bruderer, a postdoctoral fellow in the University of British Columbia’s School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, and her team placed teething toys in ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   January 01, 2016
Time to Move the Tongue Freely May Be Required to Develop Speech Perception
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Hearing & Speech Perception / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   January 01, 2016
Time to Move the Tongue Freely May Be Required to Develop Speech Perception
The ASHA Leader, January 2016, Vol. 21, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB5.21012016.16
The ASHA Leader, January 2016, Vol. 21, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB5.21012016.16
New data supporting the Motor Theory of Speech Perception indicate that impediments to babies’ tongue movement may affect their ability to decipher speech sounds.
Lead author Alison Bruderer, a postdoctoral fellow in the University of British Columbia’s School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, and her team placed teething toys in the mouths of 24 English-learning 6-month-old babies with English-speaking parents. The toys restricted the tongue tip’s movement, and the babies were unable to distinguish between two similar but distinct Hindi-language sounds. When the teethers were removed, allowing tongue movement, the infants could make the distinction.
“Until now, research in speech-perception development and language acquisition has primarily used the auditory experience as the driving factor,” Bruderer says. “Researchers should actually be looking at babies’ oral-motor movements as well.”

“Until now, research in speech-perception development and language acquisition has primarily used the auditory experience as the driving factor.”

The authors of the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, note that the results don’t mean parents should ban all use of teething toys. The authors do, however, recommend that babies have plenty of time to move their tongues freely.
3 Comments
January 17, 2016
Linda D'Onofrio
Normal oral function is the goal
Of course researchers (and clinicians) should actually be looking at babies’ oral-motor movements as well. This is also true every single time an older child is given an articulation test. Distorted speech may be the problem, or it may be the symptom of an underlying oral function issue. Addressing the acoustics of speech while ignoring normal resting postures, feeding and swallowing skills, and normal oral functioning, is a waste of time for the client and the clinician. Researchers who only analyze speech production and ignore boney structure or swallowing difficulties in a child are missing the boat. I'm so glad to see ASHA following this international trend.
January 30, 2016
Robin Ballou
whole study?
Would like to see what tests they used to measure how they understood and recognized the sounds. What instruments or behavioral parameters did you use to collect the data.
February 1, 2016
Haley Blum
Response to Robin
Hi, Robin. You can access the full study here: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/44/13531.full I hope this helps! -Haley Blum, Writer/Editor for The ASHA Leader
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January 2016
Volume 21, Issue 1