Episode 57 (How We Learn to Talk)

Jenny Saffran

How do babies learn to talk? That’s the topic of the October 2022 episode of Paul’s podcast. And to help answer that question, Paul welcomes Jenny Saffran, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert in language acquisition and cognitive and linguistic sciences.

Jenny received her A.B. in cognitive and linguistic sciences from Brown University and her Ph.D in brain and cognitive sciences and linguistics from the University of Rochester. Since 1997, she has been on the faculty at UW-Madison, where she directs two labs. The Infant Learning Lab focuses on the learning abilities of infants and toddlers, with a primary focus on language, while the Little Listeners Lab focuses on understanding early-language comprehension and learning in autistic toddlers.

Professor Saffran has received many honors and awards for her research and teaching, including election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and, most recently, the inaugural Jeffrey Elman Prize from the Cognitive Science Society.

Visit https://infantlearning.waisman.wisc.edu to learn about Dr. Saffran’s Infant Learning Lab at the University of Wisconsin. And for the publications of that lab, go to https://infantlearning.waisman.wisc.edu/publications/.

Her work is featured in the Netflix documentary Babies. The episode is available to the public on Netflix’s YouTube educational channel:

The entire video of the twin babies babbling, which Paul and Jenny refer to in the podcast, can be found on YouTube, and below:

Lastly, for more information on Professor Saffran, visit her Wikipedia page.

(Bach’s Cello Suite #1 in G Major BMV 1007 Prelude (by Ivan Dolgunov) is courtesy of Jamendo Licensing.)