Baby boys more chatty than girls, says study

June 01, 2023

WASHINGTON: Baby boys babble more than girls, according to a scientific paper out Wednesday that upends a common belief that females hold a language advantage over males early on in life.The findings, published in iScience after the largest ever study on the subject, came as a surprise even to the paper´s authors. They say it might be the result of an important sex difference that emerged during our species´ evolution.


A team led by D. Kimbrough Oller of the University of Memphis, Tennessee used an algorithm to trawl through a data set of more than 450,000 hours of non-stop audio from 5,899 infants, recorded using an iPod sized device over two years.“This is the biggest sample for any study ever conducted on language development, as far as we know,” Oller said in a statement. While young babies don´t talk, they produce pre-speech vocalizations -- squeals, growls, raspberries, and later word-like sounds such as “ba” and “ga” -- collectively called “protophones” that eventually give way to real words and sentences.

The idea that girls acquire language faster than boys has long held sway in scientific circles, and with it the assumption that baby girls vocalize more than baby boys. However, the results showed that boys made 10 percent more utterances in the first year of life, before the girls caught up and made seven percent more sounds by the second year.