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Variation in Language

Development
Presented by Anusha Sharma

Introduction
A

lot of language research in past


has focused on commonalities across
language development
In the 1970s and 1980s a lot of
research shifted from universal
acquisition variation

How can language


vary across young
language learners?

Variation in Early Words


Nelson (1973): diary study on childrens

productive vocabulary
Looked at first 50 words specifically
Ten kids: referential (object focused)
Lots of object words in lexicon

Eight kids: expressive (socially focused)


Less object labels but more pronouns, function
words, and personal-social expressions

Segmenting the Speech


Stream
Some

kids acquire longer utterances


during single word stage
More phrase like

Suggests

kids can segment adult


speech differently
Some kids pull out longer segments than

others
Kids

can segment words from speech


at 7.5 months of age, on average

Variation in Early
Sentences
Bloom

et al. 1975: studied sentences


of four children
Found sentences had similar context but

different form
Boys:

pronominal approach

My truck, I finish

Girls:

nominal approach

Used a lot of specific nouns


Kathryn sock, touch milk

What are some


sources of this
variation?

Child Factors
Some

children begin talking earlier than


others
Neurological constraints on young children
Attention, memory, perception
Can affect form and length of utterances

Preferences

for prosody in speech or


segments/syllables of words
Some kids are shy!
Speak less
Less complex utterances

Input Factors
Lots

of different language input depending


on the source
Daycare, school, mom, older sibling

Expressive

kids know more social


expressions (hi, bye, please, oh dear, lets
go)
Their moms use these!

Referential

kids know names for body parts

Could have learned them in a naming game with

mom

Socioeconomic Status
Hart

and Risley (1995)

Upper middle class kids knew more words at age 3

than lower class kids


Upper middle class kids had heard more words!
Children

from low SES homes learn language


more slowly than children from high SES homes
Differences in 18 months at vocabulary size,

processing speed, and efficiency


High

income parents talk more to their kids


and are more responsive to their childs
language

Linguistic Factors
Different

languages pose their own


challenges and advantages to the
learner
Polish has complex case marking!
Turkish has very regular morphology
English has clear prosody and word

segmentation

Question
Can

you think of any characteristics


in a language you know that can
lead to variation among learners of
that language?
Hindi: gender agreement is tough!
Maybe kids with a sibling of the opposite
gender would learn the agreement rules more
easily!

Bilingual Language
Learners
Bilingual

language learners develop slower


compared to monolinguals
Bilinguals know less vocab in each language
they know than a monolingual speaker
would
Can be getting less input in each language
Input they are getting can focus on different
things
English: Naming objects
Asian languages: relationships and appropriate

behavior

Application: Rhythm
and Grammar Skills
Musical Rhythm Discrimination Explains
Individual Differences in Grammar Skills
in Children (Gordon et al., 2015)

Aim of Study

Is there a relationship between


rhythm perception and phonological
awareness or grammar skill in kids?

Participants
25 5-7 year old children
Native English speakers
Less than two years of formal music

training
Normally developing

Methods: Rhythm Tasks


Rhythm

Discrimination Task

Kids made same/different judgments about

simple and complex rhythms


Simple rhythms: strong beat
Complex rhythms: weak beat
Kids heard standard rhythm twice and had to
say whether a third rhythm was the same or
different
Second

task: heard two monotonic


melodies
Are the rhythms same or different?

Methods: Grammatical
Skill
Structured

Photographic Language
Expressive Test
Children shown photos and asked to

describe what they see


Specific questions are asked to get a
specific type of grammatical answer
from the child

Methods: Phonological
Awareness
Comprehensive

Test of Phonological

Processing
Measure phonological ability
Three tasks in this test
1) had to remove a phonological sound from a
word (tiger without /g/)
2) combining phonological sounds to make
new words
3) sound matching: identifying pictures that
share same beginning or ending sound

Methods: Non-Verbal
Intelligence
Gave

kids a test of nonverbal


intelligence to control for IQ

Main Findings: Rhythm


The

kids who were better at


discriminating rhythms had better
grammar skills!
Independent of IQ, socioeconomic

status, music experience, or


phonological awareness

Questions:
Why

do you think some kids


discriminate rhythms better than
others?
Child factors?
Input factors?
Linguistic factors?

Do

you think rhythm discrimination


skill helps a childs grammar? Why or
why not?

Main Findings: Phonological


Awareness
Kids

who did well on phonological


awareness task discriminated
rhythms better than low scorers
But non-significant when controlled for

IQ
Phonological awareness and rhythm
discrimination arent significantly related
in this study

Questions
Why

do you think the authors found


phonological awareness didnt help
rhythm discrimination?
Age factors? Participants were 5-7 years

old
Would you expect a different result with

kids who speak a tonal language, like


Mandarin Chinese?

Questions:
Can

you think of other aspects of


music that could help a childs
language development?

Random Ideas
Infant

directed speech is like a song, especially in


English
Do moms singing to their kids give them an
advantage?
Lots of kids learn things better in a song
Singing provides vygotskian self regulation for a
kid
Do you think rhythm affects specific aspects of
grammar learning?
Why do you think rhythm affects grammar?
Do you think any other aspects of music are
relevant to learning language?