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How Babies Talk Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D. University of Delaware.

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2 How Babies Talk Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D. University of Delaware

3 Four take-away points… Children learn language early! Infants bring a great deal with them for language learning. They are brilliant at it! Responsive, sensitive input is critical. We all make a difference.

4 Today’s talk Language - An introduction to the problem space What we see when our children learn to talk What we don’t see –A revolution in our understanding of the problem space Implications & Applications

5 Language can start wars ruin marriages allow a workshop


7 Humans are the only species to have language Allows us to share thoughts and feelings Transmit knowledge and culture Say what we want in our coffee Represent our world and talk about it

8 We all take language quite for granted….. Yet, how we learn language has been a great mystery throughout time

9 Part 1:The “problem space” Mapping sounds to meanings And meanings to sounds

10 Consider the task that faces the language-learning child They hear a sound

11 Or maybe many sounds

12 While they see something interesting…

13 The infants’ job????

14 But this task is deceivingly difficult because…. There are so many ways to divide the sounds we hear –Is it, “Lobster” or “clobster,” “Do you like lobster?” So may ways to divide the events we see –When we say “bear” to a child, is it the whole bear or the fur? Or the paws? So many ways to map the words and sentences onto those parts of the events

15 While this poses a logical problem, children figure all of this out even before they … Can tie their shoes Can be trusted alone Can be taken to fancy restaurants

16 How?????? In fact, it is so easy for babies that typically developing children can learn multiple languages better than we can!

17 Part II: What you see… original theories were based on production, or what the child could do that you could see

18 What you see: Landmarks in production 0-3mo: coos 3-6 mo: coos; laughs 6-9 mo: babbling “ma ma da da” 9-12mo: points; first words; mixing it up - “bada” 12-18mo: 2 words per week; 50 words at –18 mo., names for body parts, animals, imitates, –Social joint attention used for language 18-24 mo: naming explosion; “Whas sat?”; –Talk about here and now; loves stories over and over; follows simple commands

19 What you see… continued 2-3 yrs: 500 wds; asks questions; –past tense; Wh-; sits 20 minutes; WHY?; pronounce clearly - m, n, f, b, d, h, y; uses fuller sentences with “in,” and “on.”; girls might appear to stutter 3-4 yrs: 800 wds; contractions - won’t; –can’t; can follow plot in story line; time words - morning, afternoon; adds sounds k, g, r, l; may still distort some as in “birfday” - th; wonderful new made-up words like, “Michael wave” or “vampire”

20 What you see… continued 4-5 yrs: 2000 words; speaks clearly can make up stories; use complex sentences; still some mispronounciations. 5-7 yrs: retells stories with more depth; – participates in discussions; learns relationships like big/little/happy/sad 1st grade: 11,000 words 3rd grade: 20,000 words 5th grade: 40, 000 words YOU: 52,000 words


22 A cautionary note Pediatricians have had this chart for a long time Different strokes for different folks –Groups –Individuals –Cultures There is a lot of variation! These were just general guides to the patterns in language development

23 Part III: What you don’t see… Current theories are based on what you can’t see with the naked eye…. The last 50 years: A revolution in our understanding of how children solve this age-old problem

24 The 21st Century Baby There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye!

25 Carving the sounds of language… We have discovered that…..

26 Babies are amazing! Even in the womb, eavesdropping on every conversation Mom has!

27 Did you know ……. Can discriminate between phonemes, e.g., /b/ vs. /d/, found in all the world’s languages? Can remember stories and songs they heard while in utero? Recognize their own language over a foreign language? At birth, babies recognize their mother’s voice over a strange female’s?

28 Carving up the world of objects and events….

29 Infants can… Attend to and categorize properties of objects in the first year of life, e.g., cups vs. plates. Infants have some sense of causality, gravity, and spatial aspects of objects all in the first year Recent research also suggests that they are noting properties of events like motion, path of motion and manner of motion

30 And what do we know about the…?????? A LOT!!!!! worldsound

31 Mapping sounds to meaning when learning words… Infants of 10 mo will map a word onto the most interesting object they see, regardless of what speaker is naming! By 19 mo., they notice speaker intent and will label even a boring object if a speaker is looking at it or touching it (taking the speaker’s point of view) By 24 mo., they are word learning experts!!! Can’t be fooled by an attractive object; just use speaker’s intent

32 Mapping sequences of words when learning grammar? Babies can map sequences of words to specific meanings by 17 months when they are only saying as few as 2 words! Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R.M., (1996) The Origins of grammar: Evidence from comprehension, Cambridge, Mass:MIT Press.

33 But you are rightfully incredulous: How do we know all of this about baby competencies? A host of new methodologies offers researchers a window onto the baby’s mind!

34 And what a mind it is! You can just see this mind working behind these eyes!

35 The High Amplitude Sucking Paradigm Perception of sounds

36 “Where’s the ball?” The Interactive Intermodal Preferential Looking Paradigm Mapping of words

37 “Do you see the ball? Look at the ball!”

38 The Intermodal Preferential Looking Paradigm Mapping of grammar

39 These new methods fuel the revolution, revealing Amazing infant competencies in segmenting the sound and the world (perception) Infants’ abilities to map sounds to the meanings they stand for -- especially for early object names Infants’ ability to use social cues in determining sound to word and sound to sentence meaning


41 Part IV: Applications

42 Ingredients for best outcomes… Need interactive, responsive environments Need to hear enough language data to do statistics on Need not only a LOT of language input, but varied input

43 Data from parenting with typical children Hart and Risley Study

44 Differences in Language Experience In the US, poverty is associated with less input

45 What doesn’t matter... Neither race gender ethnic origin birth order -- first, second, or only child What does matter? Amount of input

46 We also know how to apply what we have learned about the importance of input Provide stimulating and responsive language input Read -- read--read, and then read some more Tell stories - don’t need a Ph.D.! Language play - bababa

47 Yet, we must also be mindful of what to do when something goes wrong If no words at 18 mo. Doesn’t respond to his own name Little eye contact Not putting words together by 2 and a half. Do not seem to understand simple commands at 18 months. CALL a THERAPIST!!!

48 Concluding points for applications Children learn language early! Responsive, sensitive input is critical Input comes many forms: -in what they hear and see (the perceptual); -who they interact with (the social); -the full sentences we use to convey what we mean (grammatical building blocks)

49 Most frequently asked questions????????????? Do girls learn faster than boys? Do first-born’s speak earlier? Does learning sign language help a child learn faster and raise his or her IQ? Do children who are bilingual speak later? Do twins speak later? Do children with ear infections have problems learning language? Does watching TV hinder language development?

50 Remember that they’re at language learning.

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