The Atlantic

How to Predict a Baby's First Word

A new study suggests what a toddler sees plays a major role.
Source: Maskot / Getty

After about a year, give or take, of staring and babbling, babies eventually begin to say their first words. Mama. Ball. Dog. Millions of parents all over the world know this.

Now, researchers at Indiana University and the Georgia Institute of Technology have discovered new clues about how that actually happens—how babies learn those initial words. It turns out, the researchers report in a new paper, that a baby’s first words are likely tied to their visual experiences and how they see the world around them.

That might sound obvious, but Linda Smith, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana and senior author of

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