Newborns can distinguish a wide range of language sounds

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A note for Lesson no. 3, "Little Brains Wire Themselves to Their World," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 55‌ is:

When tested in a lab, newborns can distinguish a wide range of language sounds...

For examples of perceptual narrowing for language sounds in infancy, see these references.[1][2]

Infants who are raised in a bilingual environment may have slower narrowing.[3]

For a review of the scientific evidence on the perceptual narrowing of speech sounds in infancy, see this reference[4] and the fascinating research by the developmental psychologist Patricia Kuhl.

There is some evidence that the perceptual narrowing observed for speech sounds and face perception arise from domain-general mechanisms.[5][6]


  1. Höhle, Barbara, Ranka Bijeljac-Babic, Birgit Herold, Jürgen Weissenborn, and Thierry Nazzi. 2009. "Language Specific Prosodic Preferences During the First Half Year of Life: Evidence From German and French Infants." Infant Behavior and Development 32 (3): 262–274.
  2. Jusczyk, Peter W., Anne Cutler and Nancy J. Redanz. 1993. "Preference for the Predominant Stress Patterns of English Words." Child Development 64: 675–687.
  3. Byers‐Heinlein, Krista, and Christopher T. Fennell. 2014. "Perceptual Narrowing in the Context of Increased Variation: Insights From Bilingual Infants." Developmental Psychobiology 56 (2): 274–291.
  4. Lewkowicz, David J. 2014. "Early Experience and Multisensory Perceptual Narrowing." Developmental Psychobiology 56 (2): 292–315.
  5. Krasotkina, Anna, Antonia Götz, Barbara Höhle, and Gudrun Schwarzer. 2018. "Perceptual Narrowing in Speech and Face Recognition: Evidence for Intra-individual Cross-domain Relations." Frontiers in Psychology 9: 1711.
  6. Pons, Ferran, David J. Lewkowicz, Salvador Soto-Faraco, and Núria Sebastián-Gallés. 2009. "Narrowing of Intersensory Speech Perception in Infancy." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106 (26): 10598–10602.