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Mother tongue traces

Korean child James King

By Claudia Civinini

What impact does our first language have on our brain? A team of scientists tested 29 Korean-born Dutch speakers who were adopted early in life and displayed no residual knowledge of Korean against a control group of native Dutch speakers.

Both groups were trained to identify and reproduce a series of Korean consonants.

Their output was then rated by native- Korean speakers. After the training, the adoptees group performed significantly better than the Dutch natives group. They also learned faster. Interestingly, the adoptees group was composed of two subgroups: half of the participants had been adopted before 17 months of age, half later. There was no significant difference between the two groups, suggesting that the retained linguistic knowledge may be independent from the amount of experience.

Choi, J., Cutler, A., & Broersma, M. (2016) Early development of abstract language knowledge:
Evidence from perceptionproduction transfer of birth-language
memory. Royal Society Open Science

Pic courtesy: James King