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Scientists say babies decipher speech as early as three months before birth as reported by BBC.

The evidence comes from detailed brain scans of 12 infants born prematurely.

At just 28 weeks' gestation, the babies appeared to discriminate between different syllables like "ga" and "ba" as well as male and female voices.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the French team said it was unlikely the babies' experience outside the womb would have affected their findings.

The research lends support to the idea that babies develop language skills while still in the womb in response to their parents' voices.

Experts already know that babies are able to hear noises in the womb - the ear and the auditory part of the brain that allow this are formed by around 23 weeks' gestation.

But it is still debated whether humans are born with an innate ability to process speech or whether this is something acquired through learning after birth.

The authors of the study in PNAS say environmental factors are undoubtedly important, but based on their findings they believe linguistic processes are innate.

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