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The Road to Speech.docx

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University of Waterloo
Mattieu Lecorre

PSYCH 211 Module 6 The Road to Speech - Infants do not talk for most of their first year Elements of Language - Defined broadly, language is a system that relates sounds or gestures to meaning - Language differs from simple communication in four ways: o Arbitrary units = symbolic o Structured and meaningful o Communicate about events distant in time and space o Characterized by generativity - Spoken language usually involve five distinct but interrelated elements o Phonology  Sounds of a language o Morphology  Rules of meaning within the language  Smallest unit is called morpheme  Morphemes are meaningful combinations of phonemes  Free morphemes stand alone eg. Run  Bound morphemes change the meaning of the word eg. Runn(ing) o Semantics  Study of words and their meanings o Grammar  Rules used to describe the structure of a language  Most important element of grammar is syntax  Syntax is rules that specify how words are combined to form sentences o Pragmatics  Study of how people use language to communicate effectively Perceiving Speech - The basic building blocks of language are phonemes, unique sounds that can be joined to create words - Infants can distinguish most of these sounds, as early as 1 month after birth - Sucking experiment with “p” and “b” sounds - Early perception of such phonemes has been found to link to future language development - Turning head experiment (by Tsao, Liu, and Kuhl) shows that speech perception at six months strongly correlated with later language abilities at two years - Infants can distinguish speech from non-speech sounds - Language is not solely auditory, much exposure of language comes in face to face interaction with adults o Provides visual cues about sounds PSYCH 211 Module 6 The Impact of Language Exposure - Infants can distinguish phonemes that are not used in their native language - Werker showed that the ability to distinguish phonemes not used in the native language declines across the first year of life - Initially, recognition of all phonemes is useful, the infant has the ability to learn any language which the adult speaks - Tested 6 to 8 months, 8 to 10 months, and 12 months of age o 6 to 8 months  Could make the phonemic distinctions for the other two languages o 8 to 10 months  Only half could and had the ability o 12 months  Lost it - Decline seems to be due to a perceptual re-organization to match the native language o Specializing in one language apparently comes at the cost of making it more difficult to recognize sounds in other languages Identify Words - Biggest challenges for infants is identifying recurring patterns of sounds – words - By 6 months, infants pay more attention to content words eg. Nouns, verbs than function words eg. Articles, prepositions - At 7 to 8 months, infant recognizes repeated words and notice them - Infants pay more attention to stressed syllables than unstressed syllables - Methods to speech include o Infants notice syllables that go together frequently o Infants identify words is through their emerging knowledge of how sounds are used in their native language  More likely to identify the novel word when the final sound in the preceding word occurs infrequently with the first sound of the novel word - In infant-directed speech (motherese), adults speak slowly and with exaggerated changes in pitch and loudness o May attract infant more than adult speaking o Slower pace and salient language o Vowels (helps infant distinguish these sounds) o Mothers speaking clearly helps - Babies are capable of distinguishing the stress patterns within their native language as phonemic distinctions o This is called “phonetic category learning” o Helps to distinguish vowel sounds Child Development and Family Policy – Are Cochlear Implants Effective for Young Children? PSYCH 211 Module 6 - Parents communicate with their children with sign language (hereditary deafness) - Deaf children develop language and meaningless symbols at the same pace as other children - Deaf children born to hearing parents, usually delay their spoken language development - Cochlear implant is a device that picks up speech sounds and converts them to electrical impulses that stimulate nerve cells in the ear o Receives implant at 4 or 5, after the critical period, but language develops so quickly after that they are at the same stage as other children First Steps to Speech - At 2 months, infants begin to produce vowel-like sounds, such as “ooooo” or “ahhhh”, a phenomenon known as cooing - After cooing comes babbling, speechlike sound that has no meaning o Begin to combine different sounds o Precursor to real speech o Mouth is open somewhat wider on the right side than on the left side, reflecting the left hemisphere’s control of language and muscle movements on the body’s right side - At 8 to 11 month old, infants’ babbling sounds more like real speech because infants stress some syllables and vary in pitch in their speech - This pattern of rising or falling pitch is known as intonation Learning the Meanings of Words - At about first birthday, most young say first words - Extension of advanced babbling and consist of a consonant – vowel pair that may be repeated eg. Mama, dada - Children first learn names for the objects with which they interact in their environment - Language acquisition is aided by sensorimotor features of words and propose that this is why nouns like dog are more often found in children’s early vocabularies o Common are words that denote actions Understanding Words as Symbols - Began to match sound patterns (words) and concepts - Gestures are also incorporated - 50% of all objects were first referred to by gesture and three months later, by word - A gesture is a convenient substitute for pronouns like “it” or “that” and often cause an adult to say the object’s name Fast Mapping Meanings to Words - Once children have the insight that a word can symbolize an object or action, their vocabularies grow, though slowly at first PSYCH 211 Module 6 - However, at about 18 months, many children experience a naming explosion during which they learn new words – particularly names of objects – much more rapidly than before o From two or three to 10 or more - This rapid rate of word learning is astonishing when we realise that most words have many plausible but incorrect referents - Surprisingly, though, most youngsters learn the proper meanings of simple words in just a few presentations - Children’s ability to connect new words to their meanings so rapidly that they cannot be considering all possible meanings for the new word is termed fast mapping Joint Attention - Parents often label objects toddlers touch or look at - When adults label an unfamiliar object, 18 to 20 month olds assume that the label is the object’s name only when adults show signs that they are referring to the object - Joint attention is not required, but helps - When speakers appear unfamiliar with a novel person or object, 4 and 5 year olds are less likely to learn new words (they have doubts in the speaker) Constraints on Word Names - Have rules that children use to identify the right object o If an unfamiliar word is heard in the presence of objects that already have names and objects that don’t, the word refers to the one of the objects that doesn’t have a name o A name refers to whole object, and also refers not just to this particular object but to all objects of the same type o If object already has a name and another name is presented, the new name denotes a subcategory of the original name o Given many similar category members, a word applied consistently to only one of them is a proper noun Sentence Cues - Overall sentence structure can be helpful clues to a word’s meaning Cognitive Factors - Naming explosion coincides with a time of rapid cognitive growth, and children’s increased cognitive skill helps them to learn new words - Learn language to achieve goals Spotlight on Theories – A Shape-Bias Theory of Word Learning - Word learning can be accomplished by applying basic processes of attention and learning - Smith argues that shape plays a central role in learning words PSYCH 211 Module 6 - Objects that have the same shape have the same name - The infants realised that a name applies to objects that have the same shape but not to objects of the same colour or made of the same material - Word learning may not require specialized mechanisms Naming Errors - A common mistake is underextension, defining a word too narrowly - Between 1 and 3 years, children sometimes make the opposite error, overextension, defining a w
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