"Umming" and "ahhing" before important words could help babies learn, researchers at the University of Rochester, New York, have discovered.

The study found that toddlers use the "ums" and "ahs" as an indicator that an important word will follow, and pay particular attention to what is being said.

The researchers studied three groups of children between the ages of 18 and 30 months. The children sat on their parent's lap in front of a computer screen showing pictures of familiar items, like a ball or a book, and pictures of made up items. The children then listened to a voice talk about the objects.

When they heard an "um" or an "ah" the researchers discovered the children paid more attention to what was on the screen - which suggested it had become interesting to them.

Researcher Celeste Kidd said: "We're not advocating that parents add disfluencies to their speech, but I think it's nice for them to know that using these verbal pauses is okay - the 'uhs' and 'ums' are informative."

Posted by Robert Mair on 15.4.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com 

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