Displaying 1 - 95 of 95
Brown, P., & Casillas, M. (in press). Childrearing through social interaction on Rossel Island, PNG. In A. J. Fentiman, & M. Goody (
Eds.), Esther Goody revisited: Exploring the legacy of an original inter-disciplinarian. New York, NY: Berghahn.
AbstractThis paper describes childrearing practices, beliefs, and attitudes in a Papua New Guinea society - that of the Rossel Islanders - and shows, through analysis of interactions with infants and small children, how these are instantiated in everyday life. Drawing on data collected during research on Rossel Island spanning 14 years, including parental interviews, videotaped naturally-occurring interactions with babies and children, structured elicitations, and time sampling of activities involving children, we investigate the daily lives of Rossel children and consider how these influence their development of prosociality and their socialization into culturally shaped roles and characters. We relate the findings to other work on child socialization in small-scale societies, with special attention to the Tzeltal Maya of southern Mexico, and argue that detailed attention to the local socio-cultural contexts of childrearing is an important antidote to the tendency to emphasize universals of child development.
Byers-Heinlein, K., Tsui, A. S. M., Bergmann, C., Black, A., Brown, A., Carbajal, M. J., Durrant, S., Fennell, C. T., Fiévet, A.-C., Frank, M. C., Gampe, A., Gervain, J., Gonzalez-Gomez, N., Hamlin, J. K., Havron, N., Hernik, M., Kerr, S., Killam, H., Klassen, K., Kosie, J. and 18 moreByers-Heinlein, K., Tsui, A. S. M., Bergmann, C., Black, A., Brown, A., Carbajal, M. J., Durrant, S., Fennell, C. T., Fiévet, A.-C., Frank, M. C., Gampe, A., Gervain, J., Gonzalez-Gomez, N., Hamlin, J. K., Havron, N., Hernik, M., Kerr, S., Killam, H., Klassen, K., Kosie, J., Kovács, Á. M., Lew-Williams, C., Liu, L., Mani, N., Marino, C., Mastroberardino, M., Mateu, V., Noble, C., Orena, A. J., Polka, L., Potter, C. E., Schreiner, M., Singh, L., Soderstrom, M., Sundara, M., Waddell, C., Werker, J. F., & Wermelinger, S. (in press). A multi-lab study of bilingual infants: Exploring the preference for infant-directed speech. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science.
AbstractFrom the earliest months of life, infants prefer listening to and learn better from infant-directed speech (IDS) than adult-directed speech (ADS). Yet, IDS differs within communities, across languages, and across cultures, both in form and in prevalence. This large-scale, multi-site study used the diversity of bilingual infant experiences to explore the impact of different types of linguistic experience on infants’ IDS preference. As part of the multi-lab ManyBabies project, we compared lab-matched samples of 333 bilingual and 385 monolingual infants’ preference for North-American English IDS (cf. ManyBabies Consortium, in press (MB1)), tested in 17 labs in 7 countries. Those infants were tested in two age groups: 6–9 months (the younger sample) and 12–15 months (the older sample). We found that bilingual and monolingual infants both preferred IDS to ADS, and did not differ in terms of the overall magnitude of this preference. However, amongst bilingual infants who were acquiring North-American English (NAE) as a native language, greater exposure to NAE was associated with a stronger IDS preference, extending the previous finding from MB1 that monolinguals learning NAE as a native language showed a stronger preference than infants unexposed to NAE. Together, our findings indicate that IDS preference likely makes a similar contribution to monolingual and bilingual development, and that infants are exquisitely sensitive to the nature and frequency of different types of language input in their early environments.
Casillas, M., & Hilbrink, E. (in press). Communicative act development. In K. P. Schneider, & E. Ifantidou (
Eds.), Developmental and Clinical Pragmatics. DE GRUYTER MOUTON.
AbstractHow do children learn to map linguistic forms onto their intended meanings? This chapter begins with an introduction to some theoretical and analytical tools used to study communicative acts. It then turns to communicative act development in spoken and signed language acquisition, including both the early scaffolding and production of communicative acts (both non-verbal and verbal) as well as their later links to linguistic development and Theory of Mind. The chapter wraps up by linking research on communicative act development to the acquisition of conversational skills, cross-linguistic and individual differences in communicative experience during development, and human evolution. Along the way, it also poses a few open questions for future research in this domain.
Casillas, M., Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (in press). Early language experience in a Papuan community. Journal of Child Language.
AbstractThe rate at which young children are directly spoken to varies due to many factors, including (a) caregiver ideas about children as conversational partners and (b) the organization of everyday life. Prior work suggests cross-cultural variation in rates of child-directed speech is due to the former factor, but has been fraught with confounds in comparing postindustrial and subsistence farming communities. We investigate the daylong language environments of children (0;0–3;0) on Rossel Island, Papua New Guinea, a small-scale traditional community where prior ethnographic study demonstrated contingency-seeking child interaction styles. In fact, children were infrequently directly addressed and linguistic input rate was primarily affected by situational factors, though children’s vocalization maturity showed no developmental delay. We compare the input characteristics between this community and a Tseltal Mayan one in which near-parallel methods produced comparable results, then briefly discuss the models and mechanisms for learning best supported by our findings.
Fazekas, J., Jessop, A., Pine, J., & Rowland, C. F. (in press). Do children learn from their prediction mistakes? A registered report evaluating error-based theories of language acquisition. Royal Society Open Science, 7: 180877.
AbstractError-based theories of language acquisition suggest that children, like adults, continuously make and evaluate predictions in order to reach an adult-like state of language use. However, while these theories have become extremely influential, their central claim - that unpredictable input leads to higher rates of lasting change in linguistic representations – has scarcely been tested. We designed a prime surprisal-based intervention study to assess this claim. As predicted, both 5- to 6-year-old children (n=72) and adults (n=72) showed a pre- to post-test shift towards producing the dative syntactic structure they were exposed to in surprising sentences. The effect was significant in both age groups together, and in the child group separately when participants with ceiling performance in the pre-test were excluded. Secondary predictions were not upheld: we found no verb-based learning effects and there was only reliable evidence for immediate prime surprisal effects in the adult, but not in the child group. To our knowledge this is the first published study demonstrating enhanced learning rates for the same syntactic structure when it appeared in surprising as opposed to predictable contexts, thus providing crucial support for error-based theories of language acquisition.
Supplementary materialLink to Preprint on PsyArXiv
Alcock, K., Meints, K., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). The UK communicative development inventories: Words and gestures. Guilford, UK: J&R Press Ltd.
Ambridge, B., Rowland, C. F., & Gummery, A. (2020). Teaching the unlearnable: A training study of complex yes/no questions. Language and Cognition, 12(2), 385-410. doi:10.1017/langcog.2020.5.
AbstractA central question in language acquisition is how children master sentence types that they have seldom, if ever, heard. Here we report the findings of a pre-registered, randomised, single-blind intervention study designed to test the prediction that, for one such sentence type, complex questions (e.g., Is the crocodile who’s hot eating?), children could combine schemas learned, on the basis of the input, for complex noun phrases (the [THING] who’s [PROPERTY]) and simple questions (Is [THING] [ACTION]ing?) to yield a complex-question schema (Is [the [THING] who’s [PROPERTY]] ACTIONing?). Children aged 4;2 to 6;8 (M = 5;6, SD = 7.7 months) were trained on simple questions (e.g., Is the bird cleaning?) and either (Experimental group, N = 61) complex noun phrases (e.g., the bird who’s sad) or (Control group, N = 61) matched simple noun phrases (e.g., the sad bird). In general, the two groups did not differ on their ability to produce novel complex questions at test. However, the Experimental group did show (a) some evidence of generalising a particular complex NP schema (the [THING] who’s [PROPERTY] as opposed to the [THING] that’s [PROPERTY]) from training to test, (b) a lower rate of auxiliary-doubling errors (e.g., *Is the crocodile who’s hot is eating?), and (c) a greater ability to produce complex questions on the first test trial. We end by suggesting some different methods – specifically artificial language learning and syntactic priming – that could potentially be used to better test the present account.
Ambridge, B., Rowland, C. F., Theakston, A. L., & Twomey, K. E. (2020). Introduction. In C. F. Rowland, A. L. Theakston, B. Ambridge, & K. E. Twomey (
Eds.), Current Perspectives on Child Language Acquisition: How children use their environment to learn (pp. 1-7). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/tilar.27.int.
Amora, K. K., Garcia, R., & Gagarina, N. (2020). Tagalog adaptation of the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives: History, process and preliminary results. In N. Gagarina, & J. Lindgren (
Eds.), New language versions of MAIN: Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives – Revised (pp. 221-233).
AbstractThis paper briefly presents the current situation of bilingualism in the Philippines, specifically that of Tagalog-English bilingualism. More importantly, it describes the process of adapting the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (LITMUS-MAIN) to Tagalog, the basis of Filipino, which is the country’s national language. Finally, the results of a pilot study conducted on Tagalog-English bilingual children and adults (N=27) are presented. The results showed that Story Structure is similar across the two languages and that it develops significantly with age.
Arshamian, A., Manko, P., & Majid, A. (2020). Limitations in odour simulation may originate from differential sensory embodiment. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 375: 20190273. doi:10.1098/rstb.2019.0273.
AbstractAcross diverse lineages, animals communicate using chemosignals, but only humans communicate about chemical signals. Many studies have observed that compared with other sensory modalities, communication about smells is relatively rare and not always reliable. Recent cross-cultural studies, on the other hand, suggest some communities are more olfactorily oriented than previously supposed. Nevertheless, across the globe a general trend emerges where olfactory communication is relatively hard. We suggest here that this is in part because olfactory representations are different in kind: they have a low degree of embodiment, and are not easily expressed as primitives, thereby limiting the mental manipulations that can be performed with them. New exploratory data from Dutch children (9–12 year-olds) and adults support that mental imagery from olfaction is weak in comparison with vision and audition, and critically this is not affected by language development. Specifically, while visual and auditory imagery becomes more vivid with age, olfactory imagery shows no such development. This is consistent with the idea that olfactory representations are different in kind from representations from the other senses.
Bidgood, A., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., & Ambridge, B. (2020). Syntactic representations are both abstract and semantically constrained: Evidence from children’s and adults’ comprehension and production/priming of the English passive. Cognitive Science, 44(9): e12892. doi:10.1111/cogs.12892.
AbstractAll accounts of language acquisition agree that, by around age 4, children’s knowledge of grammatical constructions is abstract, rather than tied solely to individual lexical items. The aim of the present research was to investigate, focusing on the passive, whether children’s and adults’ performance is additionally semantically constrained, varying according to the distance between the semantics of the verb and those of the construction. In a forced‐choice pointing study (Experiment 1), both 4‐ to 6‐year olds (N = 60) and adults (N = 60) showed support for the prediction of this semantic construction prototype account of an interaction such that the observed disadvantage for passives as compared to actives (i.e., fewer correct points/longer reaction time) was greater for experiencer‐theme verbs than for agent‐patient and theme‐experiencer verbs (e.g., Bob was seen/hit/frightened by Wendy). Similarly, in a production/priming study (Experiment 2), both 4‐ to 6‐year olds (N = 60) and adults (N = 60) produced fewer passives for experiencer‐theme verbs than for agent‐patient/theme‐experiencer verbs. We conclude that these findings are difficult to explain under accounts based on the notion of A(rgument) movement or of a monostratal, semantics‐free, level of syntax, and instead necessitate some form of semantic construction prototype account.
Byers-Heinlein, K., Bergmann, C., Davies, C., Frank, M., Hamlin, J. K., Kline, M., Kominsky, J., Kosie, J., Lew-Williams, C., Liu, L., Mastroberardino, M., Singh, L., Waddell, C. P. G., Zettersten, M., & Soderstrom, M. (2020). Building a collaborative psychological science: Lessons learned from ManyBabies 1. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/cap0000216.
AbstractThe field of infancy research faces a difficult challenge: some questions require samples that are simply too large for any one lab to recruit and test. ManyBabies aims to address this problem by forming large-scale collaborations on key theoretical questions in developmental science, while promoting the uptake of Open Science practices. Here, we look back on the first project completed under the ManyBabies umbrella – ManyBabies 1 – which tested the development of infant-directed speech preference. Our goal is to share the lessons learned over the course of the project and to articulate our vision for the role of large-scale collaborations in the field. First, we consider the decisions made in scaling up experimental research for a collaboration involving 100+ researchers and 70+ labs. Next, we discuss successes and challenges over the course of the project, including: protocol design and implementation, data analysis, organizational structures and collaborative workflows, securing funding, and encouraging broad participation in the project. Finally, we discuss the benefits we see both in ongoing ManyBabies projects and in future large-scale collaborations in general, with a particular eye towards developing best practices and increasing growth and diversity in infancy research and psychological science in general. Throughout the paper, we include first-hand narrative experiences, in order to illustrate the perspectives of researchers playing different roles within the project. While this project focused on the unique challenges of infant research, many of the insights we gained can be applied to large-scale collaborations across the broader field of psychology.
Carrol, G., & Conklin, K. (2020). Is all formulaic language created equal? Unpacking the processing advantage for different types of formulaic sequences. Language and Speech, 63(1), 95-122. doi:10.1177/0023830918823230.
AbstractResearch into recurrent, highly conventionalized “formulaic” sequences has shown a processing advantage compared to “novel” (non-formulaic) language. Studies of individual types of formulaic sequence often acknowledge the contribution of specific factors, but little work exists to compare the processing of different types of phrases with fundamentally different properties. We use eye-tracking to compare the processing of three types of formulaic phrases—idioms, binomials, and collocations—and consider whether overall frequency can explain the advantage for all three, relative to control phrases. Results show an advantage, as evidenced through shorter reading times, for all three types. While overall phrase frequency contributes much of the processing advantage, different types of phrase do show additional effects according to the specific properties that are relevant to each type: frequency, familiarity, and decomposability for idioms; predictability and semantic association for binomials; and mutual information for collocations. We discuss how the results contribute to our understanding of the representation and processing of multiword lexical units more broadly.
Supplementary materialSupplementary materials
Casillas, M., Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (2020). Early language experience in a Tseltal Mayan village. Child Development, 91(5), 1819-1835. doi:10.1111/cdev.13349.
AbstractDaylong at-home audio recordings from 10 Tseltal Mayan children (0;2–3;0; Southern Mexico) were analyzed for how often children engaged in verbal interaction with others and whether their speech environment changed with age, time of day, household size, and number of speakers present. Children were infrequently directly spoken to, with most directed speech coming from adults, and no increase with age. Most directed speech came in the mornings, and interactional peaks contained nearly four times the baseline rate of directed speech. Coarse indicators of children's language development (babbling, first words, first word combinations) suggest that Tseltal children manage to extract the linguistic information they need despite minimal directed speech. Multiple proposals for how they might do so are discussed.
Cristia, A., Lavechin, M., Scaff, C., Soderstrom, M., Rowland, C. F., Räsänen, O., Bunce, J., & Bergelson, E. (2020). A thorough evaluation of the Language Environment Analysis (LENA) system. Behavior Research Methods. Advance online publication. doi:10.3758/s13428-020-01393-5.
AbstractIn the previous decade, dozens of studies involving thousands of children across several research disciplines have made use of a combined daylong audio-recorder and automated algorithmic analysis called the LENAⓇ system, which aims to assess children’s language environment. While the system’s prevalence in the language acquisition domain is steadily growing, there are only scattered validation efforts on only some of its key characteristics. Here, we assess the LENAⓇ system’s accuracy across all of its key measures: speaker classification, Child Vocalization Counts (CVC), Conversational Turn Counts (CTC), and Adult Word Counts (AWC). Our assessment is based on manual annotation of clips that have been randomly or periodically sampled out of daylong recordings, collected from (a) populations similar to the system’s original training data (North American English-learning children aged 3-36 months), (b) children learning another dialect of English (UK), and (c) slightly older children growing up in a different linguistic and socio-cultural setting (Tsimane’ learners in rural Bolivia). We find reasonably high accuracy in some measures (AWC, CVC), with more problematic levels of performance in others (CTC, precision of male adults and other children). Statistical analyses do not support the view that performance is worse for children who are dissimilar from the LENAⓇ original training set. Whether LENAⓇ results are accurate enough for a given research, educational, or clinical application depends largely on the specifics at hand. We therefore conclude with a set of recommendations to help researchers make this determination for their goals.
Cychosz, M., Romeo, R., Soderstrom, M., Scaff, C., Ganek, H., Cristia, A., Casillas, M., De Barbaro, K., Bang, J. Y., & Weisleder, A. (2020). Longform recordings of everyday life: Ethics for best practices. Behavior Research Methods. Advance online publication. doi:10.3758/s13428-020-01365-9.
AbstractRecent advances in large-scale data storage and processing offer unprecedented opportunities for behavioral scientists to collect and analyze naturalistic data, including from under-represented groups. Audio data, particularly real-world audio recordings, are of particular interest to behavioral scientists because they provide high-fidelity access to subtle aspects of daily life and social interactions. However, these methodological advances pose novel risks to research participants and communities. In this article, we outline the benefits and challenges associated with collecting, analyzing, and sharing multi-hour audio recording data. Guided by the principles of autonomy, privacy, beneficence, and justice, we propose a set of ethical guidelines for the use of longform audio recordings in behavioral research. This article is also accompanied by an Open Science Framework Ethics Repository that includes informed consent resources such as frequent participant concerns and sample consent forms.
Davies, C., McGillion, M., Rowland, C. F., & Matthews, D. (2020). Can inferencing be trained in preschoolers using shared book-reading? A randomised controlled trial of parents’ inference-eliciting questions on oral inferencing ability. Journal of Child Language, 47(3), 655-679. doi:10.1017/S0305000919000801.
AbstractThe ability to make inferences is essential for effective language comprehension. While inferencing training benefits reading comprehension in school-aged children (see Elleman, 2017, for a review), we do not yet know whether it is beneficial to support the development of these skills prior to school entry. In a pre-registered randomised controlled trial, we evaluated the efficacy of a parent-delivered intervention intended to promote four-year-olds’ oral inferencing skills during shared book-reading. One hundred children from socioeconomically diverse backgrounds were randomly assigned to inferencing training or an active control condition of daily maths activities. The training was found to have no effect on inferencing. However, inferencing measures were highly correlated with children's baseline language ability. This suggests that a more effective approach to scaffolding inferencing in the preschool years might be to focus on promoting vocabulary to develop richer and stronger semantic networks.
Donnelly, S., & Kidd, E. (2020). Individual differences in lexical processing efficiency and vocabulary in toddlers: A longitudinal investigation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 192: 104781. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2019.104781.
AbstractResearch on infants’ online lexical processing by Fernald, Perfors, and Marchman (2006) revealed substantial individual differences that are related to vocabulary development, such that infants with better lexical processing efficiency show greater vocabulary growth across time. Although it is clear that individual differences in lexical processing efficiency exist and are meaningful, the theoretical nature of lexical processing efficiency and its relation to vocabulary size is less clear. In the current study, we asked two questions: (a) Is lexical processing efficiency better conceptualized as a central processing capacity or as an emergent capacity reflecting a collection of word-specific capacities? and (b) Is there evidence for a causal role for lexical processing efficiency in early vocabulary development? In the study, 120 infants were tested on a measure of lexical processing at 18, 21, and 24 months, and their vocabulary was measured via parent report. Structural equation modeling of the 18-month time point data revealed that both theoretical constructs represented in the first question above (a) fit the data. A set of regression analyses on the longitudinal data revealed little evidence for a causal effect of lexical processing on vocabulary but revealed a significant effect of vocabulary size on lexical processing efficiency early in development. Overall, the results suggest that lexical processing efficiency is a stable construct in infancy that may reflect the structure of the developing lexicon.
Durrant, S., Jessop, A., Chang, F., Bidgood, A., Peter, M. S., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). Does the understanding of complex dynamic events at 10 months predict vocabulary development? Language and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1017/langcog.2020.26.
AbstractBy the end of their first year, infants can interpret many different types of complex dynamic visual events, such as caused-motion, chasing, and goal-directed action. Infants of this age are also in the early stages of vocabulary development, producing their first words at around 12 months. The present work examined whether there are meaningful individual differences in infants’ ability to represent dynamic causal events in visual scenes, and whether these differences influence vocabulary development. As part of the longitudinal Language 0–5 Project, 78 10-month-old infants were tested on their ability to interpret three dynamic motion events, involving (a) caused-motion, (b) chasing behaviour, and (c) goal-directed movement. Planned analyses found that infants showed evidence of understanding the first two event types, but not the third. Looking behaviour in each task was not meaningfully related to vocabulary development, nor were there any correlations between the tasks. The results of additional exploratory analyses and simulations suggested that the infants’ understanding of each event may not be predictive of their vocabulary development, and that looking times in these tasks may not be reliably capturing any meaningful individual differences in their knowledge. This raises questions about how to convert experimental group designs to individual differences measures, and how to interpret infant looking time behaviour.
Egger, J., Rowland, C. F., & Bergmann, C. (2020). Improving the robustness of infant lexical processing speed measures. Behavior Research Methods, 52, 2188-2201. doi:10.3758/s13428-020-01385-5.
AbstractVisual reaction times to target pictures after naming events are an informative measurement in language acquisition research, because gaze shifts measured in looking-while-listening paradigms are an indicator of infants’ lexical speed of processing. This measure is very useful, as it can be applied from a young age onwards and has been linked to later language development. However, to obtain valid reaction times, the infant is required to switch the fixation of their eyes from a distractor to a target object. This means that usually at least half the trials have to be discarded—those where the participant is already fixating the target at the onset of the target word—so that no reaction time can be measured. With few trials, reliability suffers, which is especially problematic when studying individual differences. In order to solve this problem, we developed a gaze-triggered looking-while-listening paradigm. The trials do not differ from the original paradigm apart from the fact that the target object is chosen depending on the infant’s eye fixation before naming. The object the infant is looking at becomes the distractor and the other object is used as the target, requiring a fixation switch, and thus providing a reaction time. We tested our paradigm with forty-three 18-month-old infants, comparing the results to those from the original paradigm. The Gaze-triggered paradigm yielded more valid reaction time trials, as anticipated. The results of a ranked correlation between the conditions confirmed that the manipulated paradigm measures the same concept as the original paradigm.
Frost, R. L. A., Jessop, A., Durrant, S., Peter, M. S., Bidgood, A., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., & Monaghan, P. (2020). Non-adjacent dependency learning in infancy, and its link to language development. Cognitive Psychology, 120: 101291. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2020.101291.
AbstractTo acquire language, infants must learn how to identify words and linguistic structure in speech. Statistical learning has been suggested to assist both of these tasks. However, infants’ capacity to use statistics to discover words and structure together remains unclear. Further, it is not yet known how infants’ statistical learning ability relates to their language development. We trained 17-month-old infants on an artificial language comprising non-adjacent dependencies, and examined their looking times on tasks assessing sensitivity to words and structure using an eye-tracked head-turn-preference paradigm. We measured infants’ vocabulary size using a Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) concurrently and at 19, 21, 24, 25, 27, and 30 months to relate performance to language development. Infants could segment the words from speech, demonstrated by a significant difference in looking times to words versus part-words. Infants’ segmentation performance was significantly related to their vocabulary size (receptive and expressive) both currently, and over time (receptive until 24 months, expressive until 30 months), but was not related to the rate of vocabulary growth. The data also suggest infants may have developed sensitivity to generalised structure, indicating similar statistical learning mechanisms may contribute to the discovery of words and structure in speech, but this was not related to vocabulary size.
Supplementary materialSupplementary data
Frost, R., & Monaghan, P. (2020). Insights from studying statistical learning. In C. F. Rowland, A. L. Theakston, B. Ambridge, & K. E. Twomey (
Eds.), Current Perspectives on Child Language Acquisition: How children use their environment to learn (pp. 65-89). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/tilar.27.03fro.
AbstractAcquiring language is notoriously complex, yet for the majority of children this feat is accomplished with remarkable ease. Usage-based accounts of language acquisition suggest that this success can be largely attributed to the wealth of experience with language that children accumulate over the course of language acquisition. One field of research that is heavily underpinned by this principle of experience is statistical learning, which posits that learners can perform powerful computations over the distribution of information in a given input, which can help them to discern precisely how that input is structured, and how it operates. A growing body of work brings this notion to bear in the field of language acquisition, due to a developing understanding of the richness of the statistical information contained in speech. In this chapter we discuss the role that statistical learning plays in language acquisition, emphasising the importance of both the distribution of information within language, and the situation in which language is being learnt. First, we address the types of statistical learning that apply to a range of language learning tasks, asking whether the statistical processes purported to support language learning are the same or distinct across different tasks in language acquisition. Second, we expand the perspective on what counts as environmental input, by determining how statistical learning operates over the situated learning environment, and not just sequences of sounds in utterances. Finally, we address the role of variability in children’s input, and examine how statistical learning can accommodate (and perhaps even exploit) this during language acquisition.
Garcia, R., & Kidd, E. (2020). The acquisition of the Tagalog symmetrical voice system: Evidence from structural priming. Language Learning and Development. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/15475441.2020.1814780.
AbstractWe report on two experiments that investigated the acquisition of the Tagalog symmetrical voice system, a typologically rare feature of Western Austronesian languages in which there are more than one basic transitive construction and no preference for agents to be syntactic subjects. In the experiments, 3-, 5-, and 7-year-old Tagalog-speaking children and adults completed a structural priming task that manipulated voice and word order, with the uniqueness of Tagalog allowing us to tease apart priming of thematic role order from that of syntactic roles. Participants heard a description of a picture showing a transitive action, and were then asked to complete a sentence of an unrelated picture using a voice-marked verb provided by the experimenter. Our results show that children gradually acquire an agent-before-patient preference, instead of having a default mapping of the agent to the first noun position. We also found an earlier mastery of the patient voice verbal and nominal marker configuration (patient is the subject), suggesting that children do not initially map the agent to the subject. Children were primed by thematic role but not syntactic role order, suggesting that they prioritize mapping of the thematic roles to sentence positions.
Goodhew, S. C., & Kidd, E. (2020). Bliss is blue and bleak is grey: Abstract word-colour associations influence objective performance even when not task relevant. Acta Psychologica, 206: 103067. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2020.103067.
AbstractHumans associate abstract words with physical stimulus dimensions, such as linking upward locations with positive concepts (e.g., happy = up). These associations manifest both via subjective reports of associations and on objective performance metrics. Humans also report subjective associations between colours and abstract words (e.g., joy is linked to yellow). Here we tested whether such associations manifest on objective task performance, even when not task-relevant. Across three experiments, participants were presented with abstract words in physical colours that were either congruent with previously-reported subjective word-colour associations (e.g., victory in red and unhappy in blue), or were incongruent (e.g., victory in blue and unhappy in red). In Experiment 1, participants' task was to identify the valence of words. This congruency manipulation systematically affected objective task performance. In Experiment 2, participants completed two blocks, a valence-identification and a colour-identification task block. Both tasks produced congruency effects on performance, however, the results of the colour identification block could have reflected learning effects (i.e., associating the more common congruent colour with the word). This issue was rectified in Experiment 3, whereby participants completed the same two tasks as Experiment 2, but now matched congruent and incongruent pairs were used for both tasks. Again, both tasks produced reliable congruency effects. Item analyses in each experiment revealed that these effects demonstrated a degree of item specificity. Overall, there was clear evidence that at least some abstract word-colour pairings can systematically affect behaviour.
Hahn, L. E., Ten Buuren, M., Snijders, T. M., & Fikkert, P. (2020). Learning words in a second language while cycling and listening to children’s songs: The Noplica Energy Center. International Journal of Music in Early Childhood, 15(1), 95-108. doi:10.1386/ijmec_00014_1.
AbstractChildren’s songs are a great source for linguistic learning. Here we explore whether children can acquire novel words in a second language by playing a game featuring children’s songs in a playhouse. The playhouse is designed by the Noplica foundation (www.noplica.nl) to advance language learning through unsupervised play. We present data from three experiments that serve to scientifically proof the functionality of one game of the playhouse: the Energy Center. For this game, children move three hand-bikes mounted on a panel within the playhouse. Once the children cycle, a song starts playing that is accompanied by musical instruments. In our experiments, children executed a picture-selection task to evaluate whether they acquired new vocabulary from the songs presented during the game. Two of our experiments were run in the field, one at a Dutch and one at an Indian pre-school. The third experiment features data from a more controlled laboratory setting. Our results partly confirm that the Energy Center is a successful means to support vocabulary acquisition in a second language. More research with larger sample sizes and longer access to the Energy Center is needed to evaluate the overall functionality of the game. Based on informal observations at our test sites, however, we are certain that children do pick up linguistic content from the songs during play, as many of the children repeat words and phrases from the songs they heard. We will pick up upon these promising observations during future studies.
Hahn, L. E., Benders, T., Snijders, T. M., & Fikkert, P. (2020). Six-month-old infants recognize phrases in song and speech. Infancy, 25(5), 699-718. doi:10.1111/infa.12357.
AbstractInfants exploit acoustic boundaries to perceptually organize phrases in speech. This prosodic parsing ability is well‐attested and is a cornerstone to the development of speech perception and grammar. However, infants also receive linguistic input in child songs. This study provides evidence that infants parse songs into meaningful phrasal units and replicates previous research for speech. Six‐month‐old Dutch infants (n = 80) were tested in the song or speech modality in the head‐turn preference procedure. First, infants were familiarized to two versions of the same word sequence: One version represented a well‐formed unit, and the other contained a phrase boundary halfway through. At test, infants were presented two passages, each containing one version of the familiarized sequence. The results for speech replicated the previously observed preference for the passage containing the well‐formed sequence, but only in a more fine‐grained analysis. The preference for well‐formed phrases was also observed in the song modality, indicating that infants recognize phrase structure in song. There were acoustic differences between stimuli of the current and previous studies, suggesting that infants are flexible in their processing of boundary cues while also providing a possible explanation for differences in effect sizes.
Havron, N., Bergmann, C., & Tsuji, S. (2020). Preregistration in infant research - A primer. Infancy, 25(5), 734-754. doi:10.1111/infa.12353.
AbstractPreregistration, the act of specifying a research plan in advance, is becoming more common in scientific research. Infant researchers contend with unique problems that might make preregistration particularly challenging. Infants are a hard‐to‐reach population, usually yielding small sample sizes, they can only complete a limited number of trials, and they can be excluded based on hard‐to‐predict complications (e.g., parental interference, fussiness). In addition, as effects themselves potentially change with age and population, it is hard to calculate an a priori effect size. At the same time, these very factors make preregistration in infant studies a valuable tool. A priori examination of the planned study, including the hypotheses, sample size, and resulting statistical power, increases the credibility of single studies and adds value to the field. Preregistration might also improve explicit decision making to create better studies. We present an in‐depth discussion of the issues uniquely relevant to infant researchers, and ways to contend with them in preregistration and study planning. We provide recommendations to researchers interested in following current best practices.
Supplementary materialPreprint version on OSF
Isbilen, E. S., McCauley, S. M., Kidd, E., & Christiansen, M. H. (2020). Statistically induced chunking recall: A memory‐based approach to statistical learning. Cognitive Science, 44(7): e12848. doi:10.1111/cogs.12848.
AbstractThe computations involved in statistical learning have long been debated. Here, we build on work suggesting that a basic memory process, chunking , may account for the processing of statistical regularities into larger units. Drawing on methods from the memory literature, we developed a novel paradigm to test statistical learning by leveraging a robust phenomenon observed in serial recall tasks: that short‐term memory is fundamentally shaped by long‐term distributional learning. In the statistically induced chunking recall (SICR) task, participants are exposed to an artificial language, using a standard statistical learning exposure phase. Afterward, they recall strings of syllables that either follow the statistics of the artificial language or comprise the same syllables presented in a random order. We hypothesized that if individuals had chunked the artificial language into word‐like units, then the statistically structured items would be more accurately recalled relative to the random controls. Our results demonstrate that SICR effectively captures learning in both the auditory and visual modalities, with participants displaying significantly improved recall of the statistically structured items, and even recall specific trigram chunks from the input. SICR also exhibits greater test–retest reliability in the auditory modality and sensitivity to individual differences in both modalities than the standard two‐alternative forced‐choice task. These results thereby provide key empirical support to the chunking account of statistical learning and contribute a valuable new tool to the literature.
Jessop, A., & Chang, F. (2020). Thematic role information is maintained in the visual object-tracking system. Quarterly journal of experimental psychology, 73(1), 146-163. doi:10.1177%2F1747021819882842.
AbstractThematic roles characterise the functions of participants in events, but there is no agreement on how these roles are identified in the real world. In three experiments, we examined how role identification in push events is supported by the visual object-tracking system. Participants saw one to three push events in visual scenes with nine identical randomly moving circles. After a period of random movement, two circles from one of the push events and a foil object were given different colours and the participants had to identify their roles in the push with an active sentence, such as red pushed blue. It was found that the participants could track the agent and patient targets and generate descriptions that identified their roles at above chance levels, even under difficult conditions, such as when tracking multiple push events (Experiments 1–3), fixating their gaze (Experiment 1), performing a concurrent speeded-response task (Experiment 2), and when tracking objects that were temporarily invisible (Experiment 3). The results were consistent with previous findings of an average tracking capacity limit of four objects, individual differences in this capacity, and the use of attentional strategies. The studies demonstrated that thematic role information can be maintained when tracking the identity of visually identical objects, then used to map role fillers (e.g., the agent of a push event) into their appropriate sentence positions. This suggests that thematic role features are stored temporarily in the visual object-tracking system.
Kidd, E., & Donnelly, S. (2020). Individual differences in first language acquisition. Annual Review of Linguistics, 6, 319-340. doi:10.1146/annurev-linguistics-011619-030326.
AbstractHumans vary in almost every dimension imaginable, and language is no exception. In this article, we review the past research that has focused on individual differences (IDs) in first language acquisition. We first consider how different theoretical traditions in language acquisition treat IDs, and we argue that a focus on IDs is important given its potential to reveal the developmental dynamics and architectural constraints of the linguistic system. We then review IDs research that has examined variation in children’s linguistic input, early speech perception, and vocabulary and grammatical development. In each case, we observe systematic and meaningful variation, such that variation in one domain (e.g., early auditory and speech processing) has meaningful developmental consequences for development in higher-order domains (e.g., vocabulary). The research suggests a high degree of integration across the linguistic system, in which development across multiple linguistic domains is tightly coupled.
Kidd, E., Arciuli, J., Christiansen, M. H., Isbilen, E. S., Revius, K., & Smithson, M. (2020). Measuring children’s auditory statistical learning via serial recall. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 200: 104964. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2020.104964.
AbstractStatistical learning (SL) has been a prominent focus of research in developmental and adult populations, guided by the assumption that it is a fundamental component of learning underlying higher-order cognition. In developmental populations, however, there have been recent concerns regarding the degree to which many current tasks reliably measure SL, particularly in younger children. In the current article, we present the results of two studies that measured auditory statistical learning (ASL) of linguistic stimuli in children aged 5–8 years. Children listened to 6 min of continuous syllables comprising four trisyllabic pseudowords. Following the familiarization phase, children completed (a) a two-alternative forced-choice task and (b) a serial recall task in which they repeated either target sequences embedded during familiarization or foils, manipulated for sequence length. Results showed that, although both measures consistently revealed learning at the group level, the recall task better captured learning across the full range of abilities and was more reliable at the individual level. We conclude that, as has also been demonstrated in adults, the method holds promise for future studies of individual differences in ASL of linguistic stimuli.
Kidd, E., Bigood, A., Donnelly, S., Durrant, S., Peter, M. S., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). Individual differences in first language acquisition and their theoretical implications. In C. F. Rowland, A. L. Theakston, B. Ambridge, & K. E. Twomey (
Eds.), Current Perspectives on Child Language Acquisition: How children use their environment to learn (pp. 189-219). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/tilar.27.09kid.
AbstractMuch of Lieven’s pioneering work has helped move the study of individual differences to the centre of child language research. The goal of the present chapter is to illustrate how the study of individual differences provides crucial insights into the language acquisition process. In part one, we summarise some of the evidence showing how pervasive individual differences are across the whole of the language system; from gestures to morphosyntax. In part two, we describe three causal factors implicated in explaining individual differences, which, we argue, must be built into any theory of language acquisition (intrinsic differences in the neurocognitive learning mechanisms, the child’s communicative environment, and developmental cascades in which each new linguistic skill that the child has to acquire depends critically on the prior acquisition of foundational abilities). In part three, we present an example study on the role of the speed of linguistic processing on vocabulary development, which illustrates our approach to individual differences. The results show evidence of a changing relationship between lexical processing speed and vocabulary over developmental time, perhaps as a result of the changing nature of the structure of the lexicon. The study thus highlights the benefits of an individual differences approach in building, testing, and constraining theories of language acquisition.
Kyriacou, M., Conklin, K., & Thompson, D. (2020). Passivizability of idioms: Has the wrong tree been barked up? Language and Speech, 63(2), 404-435.
AbstractA growing number of studies support the partial compositionality of idiomatic phrases, while idioms are thought to vary in their syntactic flexibility. Some idioms, like kick the bucket, have been classified as inflexible and incapable of being passivized without losing their figurative interpretation (i.e., the bucket was kicked ≠ died). Crucially, this has never been substantiated by empirical findings. In the current study, we used eye-tracking to examine whether the passive forms of (flexible and inflexible) idioms retain or lose their figurative meaning. Active and passivized idioms (he kicked the bucket/the bucket was kicked) and incongruous active and passive control phrases (he kicked the apple/the apple was kicked) were inserted in sentences biasing the figurative meaning of the respective idiom (die). Active idioms served as a baseline. We hypothesized that if passivized idioms retain their figurative meaning (the bucket was kicked = died), they should be processed more efficiently than the control phrases, since their figurative meaning would be congruous in the context. If, on the other hand, passivized idioms lose their figurative interpretation (the bucket was kicked = the pail was kicked), then their meaning should be just as incongruous as that of both control phrases, in which case we would expect no difference in their processing. Eye movement patterns demonstrated a processing advantage for passivized idioms (flexible and inflexible) over control phrases, thus indicating that their figurative meaning was not compromised. These findings challenge classifications of idiom flexibility and highlight the creative nature of language.
Lingwood, J., Levy, R., Billington, J., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). Barriers and solutions to participation in family-based education interventions. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 23(2), 185-198. doi:10.1080/13645579.2019.1645377.
AbstractThe fact that many sub-populations do not take part in research, especially participants fromlower socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds, is a serious problem in education research. Toincrease the participation of such groups we must discover what social, economic andpractical factors prevent participation, and how to overcome these barriers. In the currentpaper, we review the literature on this topic, before describing a case study that demonstratesfour potential solutions to four barriers to participation in a shared reading intervention forfamilies from lower SES backgrounds. We discuss the implications of our findings forfamily-based interventions more generally, and the difficulty of balancing strategies toencourage participation with adhering to the methodological integrity of a research study
Supplementary materialsupplemental material
Lingwood, J., Billington, J., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). Evaluating the effectiveness of a ‘real‐world’ shared reading intervention for preschool children and their families: A randomised controlled trial. Journal of Research in Reading. Advance online publication. doi:10.1111/1467-9817.12301.
AbstractBackground: Shared reading interventions can impact positively on preschool children’s language development and on their caregiver’s attitudes/behaviours towards reading. However, a number of barriers may discourage families from engaging with these interventions, particularly families from lower socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds. We investigated how families from such backgrounds responded to an intervention designed explicitly to overcome these barriers. Methods: In a preregistered cluster randomised controlled trial, 85 lower SES families and their 3-year-old to 4-year-old children from 10 different preschools were randomly allocated to take part in The Reader’s Shared Reading programme (intervention) or an existing ‘Story Time’ group at a library (control) once a week for 8 weeks. Three outcome measures were assessed at baseline and post intervention: (1) attendance, (2) enjoyment of the reading groups and (3) caregivers’ knowledge of, attitudes and behaviours towards reading. A fourth children’s vocabulary – was assessed at baseline and 4 weeks post intervention. Results: Families were significantly more likely to attend the intervention group and rated it more favourably, compared with the control group. However, there were no significant effects on caregivers’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours or on children’s language. Conclusion: The intervention was only successful in engaging families from disadvantaged backgrounds in shared reading. Implications for the use, duration and intensity of shared reading interventions are discussed.
Supplementary materialData, scripts and output files
MacDonald, K., Räsänen, O., Casillas, M., & Warlaumont, A. S. (2020). Measuring prosodic predictability in children’s home language environments. In S. Denison, M. Mack, Y. Xu, & B. C. Armstrong (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Virtual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2020) (pp. 695-701). Montreal, QB: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractChildren learn language from the speech in their home environment. Recent work shows that more infant-directed speech (IDS) leads to stronger lexical development. But what makes IDS a particularly useful learning signal? Here, we expand on an attention-based account ﬁrst proposed by Räsänen et al. (2018): that prosodic modiﬁcations make IDS less predictable, and thus more interesting. First, we reproduce the critical ﬁnding from Räsänen et al.: that lab-recorded IDS pitch is less predictable compared to adult-directed speech (ADS). Next, we show that this result generalizes to the home language environment, ﬁnding that IDS in daylong recordings is also less predictable than ADS but that this pattern is much less robust than for IDS recorded in the lab. These results link experimental work on attention and prosodic modiﬁcations of IDS to real-world language-learning environments, highlighting some challenges of scaling up analyses of IDS to larger datasets that better capture children’s actual input.
The ManyBabies Consortium (2020). Quantifying sources of variability in infancy research using the infant-directed speech preference. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, 30(1), 24-52. doi:10.1177/2515245919900809.
AbstractPsychological scientists have become increasingly concerned with issues related to methodology and replicability, and infancy researchers in particular face specific challenges related to replicability: For example, high-powered studies are difficult to conduct, testing conditions vary across labs, and different labs have access to different infant populations. Addressing these concerns, we report on a large-scale, multisite study aimed at (a) assessing the overall replicability of a single theoretically important phenomenon and (b) examining methodological, cultural, and developmental moderators. We focus on infants’ preference for infant-directed speech (IDS) over adult-directed speech (ADS). Stimuli of mothers speaking to their infants and to an adult in North American English were created using seminaturalistic laboratory-based audio recordings. Infants’ relative preference for IDS and ADS was assessed across 67 laboratories in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia using the three common methods for measuring infants’ discrimination (head-turn preference, central fixation, and eye tracking). The overall meta-analytic effect size (Cohen’s d) was 0.35, 95% confidence interval = [0.29, 0.42], which was reliably above zero but smaller than the meta-analytic mean computed from previous literature (0.67). The IDS preference was significantly stronger in older children, in those children for whom the stimuli matched their native language and dialect, and in data from labs using the head-turn preference procedure. Together, these findings replicate the IDS preference but suggest that its magnitude is modulated by development, native-language experience, and testing procedure.
Muhinyi, A., Hesketh, A., Stewart, A. J., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). Story choice matters for caregiver extra-textual talk during shared reading with preschoolers. Journal of Child Language, 47(3), 633-654. doi:10.1017/S0305000919000783.
AbstractThis study aimed to examine the influence of the complexity of the story-book on caregiver extra-textual talk (i.e., interactions beyond text reading) during shared reading with preschool-age children. Fifty-three mother–child dyads (3;00–4;11) were video-recorded sharing two ostensibly similar picture-books: a simple story (containing no false belief) and a complex story (containing a false belief central to the plot, which provided content that was more challenging for preschoolers to understand). Book-reading interactions were transcribed and coded. Results showed that the complex stories facilitated more extra-textual talk from mothers, and a higher quality of extra-textual talk (as indexed by linguistic richness and level of abstraction). Although the type of story did not affect the number of questions mothers posed, more elaborative follow-ups on children's responses were provided by mothers when sharing complex stories. Complex stories may facilitate more and linguistically richer caregiver extra-textual talk, having implications for preschoolers’ developing language abilities.
Noble, C., Cameron-Faulkner, T., Jessop, A., Coates, A., Sawyer, H., Taylor-Ims, R., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). The impact of interactive shared book reading on children's language skills: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 63(6), 1878-1897. doi:10.1044/2020_JSLHR-19-00288.
AbstractPurpose: Research has indicated that interactive shared book reading can support a wide range of early language skills and that children who are read to regularly in the early years learn language faster, enter school with a larger vocabulary, and become more successful readers at school. Despite the large volume of research suggesting interactive shared reading is beneficial for language development, two fundamental issues remain outstanding: whether shared book reading interventions are equally effective (a) for children from all socioeconomic backgrounds and (b) for a range of language skills. Method: To address these issues, we conducted a randomized controlled trial to investigate the effects of two 6-week interactive shared reading interventions on a range of language skills in children across the socioeconomic spectrum. One hundred and fifty children aged between 2;6 and 3;0 (years;months) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: a pause reading, a dialogic reading, or an active shared reading control condition. Results: The findings indicated that the interventions were effective at changing caregiver reading behaviors. However, the interventions did not boost children’s language skills over and above the effect of an active reading control condition. There were also no effects of socioeconomic status. Conclusion: This randomized controlled trial showed that caregivers from all socioeconomic backgrounds successfully adopted an interactive shared reading style. However, while the interventions were effective at increasing caregivers’ use of interactive shared book reading behaviors, this did not have a significant impact on the children’s language skills. The findings are discussed in terms of practical implications and future research.
Supplementary materialSupplemental Material
Parente, F., Conklin, K., Guy, J. M., & Scott, R. (2020). The role of empirical methods in investigating readers’ constructions of authorial creativity in literary reading. Language and Literature: International Journal of Stylistics. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0963947020952200.
AbstractThe popularity of literary biographies and the importance publishers place on author publicity materials suggest the concept of an author’s creative intentions is important to readers’ appreciation of literary works. However, the question of how this kind of contextual information informs literary interpretation is contentious. One area of dispute concerns the extent to which readers’ constructions of an author’s creative intentions are text-centred and therefore can adequately be understood by linguistic evidence alone. The current study shows how the relationship between linguistic and contextual factors in readers’ constructions of an author’s creative intentions may be investigated empirically. We use eye-tracking to determine whether readers’ responses to textual features (changes to lexis and punctuation) are affected by prior, extra-textual prompts concerning information about an author’s creative intentions. We showed participants pairs of sentences from Oscar Wilde and Henry James while monitoring their eye movements. The first sentence was followed by a prompt denoting a different attribution (Authorial, Editorial/Publisher and Typographic) for the change that, if present, would appear in the second sentence. After reading the second sentence, participants were asked whether they had detected a change and, if so, to describe it. If the concept of an author’s creative intentions is implicated in literary reading this should influence participants’ reading behaviour and ability to accurately report a change based on the prompt. The findings showed that readers’ noticing of textual variants was sensitive to the prior prompt about its authorship, in the sense of producing an effect on attention and re-reading times. But they also showed that these effects did not follow the pattern predicted of them, based on prior assumptions about readers’ cultures. This last finding points to the importance, as well as the challenges, of further investigating the role of contextual information in readers’ constructions of an author’s creative intentions.
Räsänen, O., Seshadri, S., Lavechin, M., Cristia, A., & Casillas, M. (2020). ALICE: An open-source tool for automatic measurement of phoneme, syllable, and word counts from child-centered daylong recordings. Behavior Research Methods. Advance online publication. doi:10.3758/s13428-020-01460-x.
AbstractRecordings captured by wearable microphones are a standard method for investigating young children’s language environments. A key measure to quantify from such data is the amount of speech present in children’s home environments. To this end, the LENA recorder and software—a popular system for measuring linguistic input—estimates the number of adult words that children may hear over the course of a recording. However, word count estimation is challenging to do in a language-independent manner; the relationship between observable acoustic patterns and language-specific lexical entities is far from uniform across human languages. In this paper, we ask whether some alternative linguistic units, namely phone(me)s or syllables, could be measured instead of, or in parallel with, words in order to achieve improved cross-linguistic applicability and comparability of an automated system for measuring child language input. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of measuring different units from theoretical and technical points of view. We also investigate the practical applicability of measuring such units using a novel system called Automatic LInguistic unit Count Estimator (ALICE) together with audio from seven child-centered daylong audio corpora from diverse cultural and linguistic environments. We show that language-independent measurement of phoneme counts is somewhat more accurate than syllables or words, but all three are highly correlated with human annotations on the same data. We share an open-source implementation of ALICE for use by the language research community, allowing automatic phoneme, syllable, and word count estimation from child-centered audio recordings.
Rowland, C. F. (2020). Introduction. In M. E. Poulsen (
Ed.), The Jerome Bruner Library: From New York to Nijmegen. Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
Rowland, C. F., Theakston, A. L., Ambridge, B., & Twomey, K. E. (
Eds.). (2020). Current Perspectives on Child Language Acquisition: How children use their environment to learn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/tilar.27.
AbstractIn recent years the field has seen an increasing realisation that the full complexity of language acquisition demands theories that (a) explain how children integrate information from multiple sources in the environment, (b) build linguistic representations at a number of different levels, and (c) learn how to combine these representations in order to communicate effectively. These new findings have stimulated new theoretical perspectives that are more centered on explaining learning as a complex dynamic interaction between the child and her environment. This book is the first attempt to bring some of these new perspectives together in one place. It is a collection of essays written by a group of researchers who all take an approach centered on child-environment interaction, and all of whom have been influenced by the work of Elena Lieven, to whom this collection is dedicated.
Snijders, T. M., Benders, T., & Fikkert, P. (2020). Infants segment words from songs - an EEG study. Brain Sciences, 10( 1): 39. doi:10.3390/brainsci10010039.
AbstractChildren’s songs are omnipresent and highly attractive stimuli in infants’ input. Previous work suggests that infants process linguistic–phonetic information from simplified sung melodies. The present study investigated whether infants learn words from ecologically valid children’s songs. Testing 40 Dutch-learning 10-month-olds in a familiarization-then-test electroencephalography (EEG) paradigm, this study asked whether infants can segment repeated target words embedded in songs during familiarization and subsequently recognize those words in continuous speech in the test phase. To replicate previous speech work and compare segmentation across modalities, infants participated in both song and speech sessions. Results showed a positive event-related potential (ERP) familiarity effect to the final compared to the first target occurrences during both song and speech familiarization. No evidence was found for word recognition in the test phase following either song or speech. Comparisons across the stimuli of the present and a comparable previous study suggested that acoustic prominence and speech rate may have contributed to the polarity of the ERP familiarity effect and its absence in the test phase. Overall, the present study provides evidence that 10-month-old infants can segment words embedded in songs, and it raises questions about the acoustic and other factors that enable or hinder infant word segmentation from songs and speech.
Tsuji, S., Cristia, A., Frank, M. C., & Bergmann, C. (2020). Addressing publication bias in Meta-Analysis: Empirical findings from community-augmented meta-analyses of infant language development. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 228(1), 50-61. doi:10.1027/2151-2604/a000393.
AbstractMeta-analyses are an indispensable research synthesis tool for characterizing bodies of literature and advancing theories. One important open question concerns the inclusion of unpublished data into meta-analyses. Finding such studies can be effortful, but their exclusion potentially leads to consequential biases like overestimation of a literature’s mean effect. We address two questions about unpublished data using MetaLab, a collection of community-augmented meta-analyses focused on developmental psychology. First, we assess to what extent MetaLab datasets include gray literature, and by what search strategies they are unearthed. We find that an average of 11% of datapoints are from unpublished literature; standard search strategies like database searches, complemented with individualized approaches like including authors’ own data, contribute the majority of this literature. Second, we analyze the effect of including versus excluding unpublished literature on estimates of effect size and publication bias, and find this decision does not affect outcomes. We discuss lessons learned and implications.
Supplementary materialLink to Dataset on PsychArchives
Van den Heuvel, H., Oostdijk, N., Rowland, C. F., & Trilsbeek, P. (2020). The CLARIN Knowledge Centre for Atypical Communication Expertise. In N. Calzolari, F. Béchet, P. Blache, K. Choukri, C. Cieri, T. Declerck, S. Goggi, H. Isahara, B. Maegaard, J. Mariani, H. Mazo, A. Moreno, J. Odijk, & S. Piperidis (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 12th Language Resources and Evaluation Conference (LREC 2020) (pp. 3312-3316). Marseille, France: European Language Resources Association.
AbstractThis paper introduces a new CLARIN Knowledge Center which is the K-Centre for Atypical Communication Expertise (ACE for short) which has been established at the Centre for Language and Speech Technology (CLST) at Radboud University. Atypical communication is an umbrella term used here to denote language use by second language learners, people with language disorders or those suffering from language disabilities, but also more broadly by bilinguals and users of sign languages. It involves multiple modalities (text, speech, sign, gesture) and encompasses different developmental stages. ACE closely collaborates with The Language Archive (TLA) at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in order to safeguard GDPR-compliant data storage and access. We explain the mission of ACE and show its potential on a number of showcases and a use case.
Yang, W., Chan, A., Chang, F., & Kidd, E. (2020). Four-year-old Mandarin-speaking children’s online comprehension of relative clauses. Cognition, 196: 104103. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.104103.
AbstractA core question in language acquisition is whether children’s syntactic processing is experience-dependent and language-specific, or whether it is governed by abstract, universal syntactic machinery. We address this question by presenting corpus and on-line processing dat a from children learning Mandarin Chinese, a language that has been important in debates about the universality of parsing processes. The corpus data revealed that two different relative clause constructions in Mandarin are differentially used to modify syntactic subjects and objects. In the experiment, 4-year-old children’s eye-movements were recorded as they listened to the two RC construction types (e.g., Can you pick up the pig that pushed the sheep?). A permutation analysis showed that children’s ease of comprehension was closely aligned with the distributional frequencies, suggesting syntactic processing preferences are shaped by the input experience of these constructions.
Alhama, R. G., & Zuidema, W. (2019). A review of computational models of basic rule learning: The neural-symbolic debate and beyond. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 26(4), 1174-1194. doi:10.3758/s13423-019-01602-z.
AbstractWe present a critical review of computational models of generalization of simple grammar-like rules, such as ABA and ABB. In particular, we focus on models attempting to account for the empirical results of Marcus et al. (Science, 283(5398), 77–80 1999). In that study, evidence is reported of generalization behavior by 7-month-old infants, using an Artificial Language Learning paradigm. The authors fail to replicate this behavior in neural network simulations, and claim that this failure reveals inherent limitations of a whole class of neural networks: those that do not incorporate symbolic operations. A great number of computational models were proposed in follow-up studies, fuelling a heated debate about what is required for a model to generalize. Twenty years later, this debate is still not settled. In this paper, we review a large number of the proposed models. We present a critical analysis of those models, in terms of how they contribute to answer the most relevant questions raised by the experiment. After identifying which aspects require further research, we propose a list of desiderata for advancing our understanding on generalization.
Alhama, R. G., Siegelman, N., Frost, R., & Armstrong, B. C. (2019). The role of information in visual word recognition: A perceptually-constrained connectionist account. In A. Goel, C. Seifert, & C. Freksa (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019) (pp. 83-89). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractProficient readers typically fixate near the center of a word, with a slight bias towards word onset. We explore a novel account of this phenomenon based on combining information-theory with visual perceptual constraints in a connectionist model of visual word recognition. This account posits that the amount of information-content available for word identification varies across fixation locations and across languages, thereby explaining the overall fixation location bias in different languages, making the novel prediction that certain words are more readily identified when fixating at an atypical fixation location, and predicting specific cross-linguistic differences. We tested these predictions across several simulations in English and Hebrew, and in a pilot behavioral experiment. Results confirmed that the bias to fixate closer to word onset aligns with maximizing information in the visual signal, that some words are more readily identified at atypical fixation locations, and that these effects vary to some degree across languages.
Bergelson*, E., Casillas*, M., Soderstrom, M., Seidl, A., Warlaumont, A. S., & Amatuni, A. (2019). What Do North American Babies Hear? A large-scale cross-corpus analysis. Developmental Science, 22(1): e12724. doi:10.1111/desc.12724.
Abstract- * indicates joint first authorship - Abstract: A range of demographic variables influence how much speech young children hear. However, because studies have used vastly different sampling methods, quantitative comparison of interlocking demographic effects has been nearly impossible, across or within studies. We harnessed a unique collection of existing naturalistic, day-long recordings from 61 homes across four North American cities to examine language input as a function of age, gender, and maternal education. We analyzed adult speech heard by 3- to 20-month-olds who wore audio recorders for an entire day. We annotated speaker gender and speech register (child-directed or adult-directed) for 10,861 utterances from female and male adults in these recordings. Examining age, gender, and maternal education collectively in this ecologically-valid dataset, we find several key results. First, the speaker gender imbalance in the input is striking: children heard 2--3x more speech from females than males. Second, children in higher-maternal-education homes heard more child-directed speech than those in lower-maternal education homes. Finally, our analyses revealed a previously unreported effect: the proportion of child-directed speech in the input increases with age, due to a decrease in adult-directed speech with age. This large-scale analysis is an important step forward in collectively examining demographic variables that influence early development, made possible by pooled, comparable, day-long recordings of children's language environments. The audio recordings, annotations, and annotation software are readily available for re-use and re-analysis by other researchers.
Bertamini, M., Rampone, G., Makin, A. D. J., & Jessop, A. (2019). Symmetry preference in shapes, faces, flowers and landscapes. PeerJ, 7: e7078. doi:10.7717/peerj.7078.
AbstractMost people like symmetry, and symmetry has been extensively used in visual art and architecture. In this study, we compared preference for images of abstract and familiar objects in the original format or when containing perfect bilateral symmetry. We created pairs of images for different categories: male faces, female faces, polygons, smoothed version of the polygons, flowers, and landscapes. This design allows us to compare symmetry preference in different domains. Each observer saw all categories randomly interleaved but saw only one of the two images in a pair. After recording preference, we recorded a rating of how salient the symmetry was for each image, and measured how quickly observers could decide which of the two images in a pair was symmetrical. Results reveal a general preference for symmetry in the case of shapes and faces. For landscapes, natural (no perfect symmetry) images were preferred. Correlations with judgments of saliency were present but generally low, and for landscapes the salience of symmetry was negatively related to preference. However, even within the category where symmetry was not liked (landscapes), the separate analysis of original and modified stimuli showed an interesting pattern: Salience of symmetry was correlated positively (artificial) or negatively (original) with preference, suggesting different effects of symmetry within the same class of stimuli based on context and categorization.
Supplementary materialSupplemental Information
Casillas, M., & Cristia, A. (2019). A step-by-step guide to collecting and analyzing long-format speech environment (LFSE) recordings. Collabra, 5(1): 24. doi:10.1525/collabra.209.
AbstractRecent years have seen rapid technological development of devices that can record communicative behavior as participants go about daily life. This paper is intended as an end-to-end methodological guidebook for potential users of these technologies, including researchers who want to study children’s or adults’ communicative behavior in everyday contexts. We explain how long-format speech environment (LFSE) recordings provide a unique view on language use and how they can be used to complement other measures at the individual and group level. We aim to help potential users of these technologies make informed decisions regarding research design, hardware, software, and archiving. We also provide information regarding ethics and implementation, issues that are difficult to navigate for those new to this technology, and on which little or no resources are available. This guidebook offers a concise summary of information for new users and points to sources of more detailed information for more advanced users. Links to discussion groups and community-augmented databases are also provided to help readers stay up-to-date on the latest developments.
Casillas, M., Rafiee, A., & Majid, A. (2019). Iranian herbalists, but not cooks, are better at naming odors than laypeople. Cognitive Science, 43(6): e12763. doi:10.1111/cogs.12763.
AbstractOdor naming is enhanced in communities where communication about odors is a central part of daily life (e.g., wine experts, flavorists, and some hunter‐gatherer groups). In this study, we investigated how expert knowledge and daily experience affect the ability to name odors in a group of experts that has not previously been investigated in this context—Iranian herbalists; also called attars—as well as cooks and laypeople. We assessed naming accuracy and consistency for 16 herb and spice odors, collected judgments of odor perception, and evaluated participants' odor meta‐awareness. Participants' responses were overall more consistent and accurate for more frequent and familiar odors. Moreover, attars were more accurate than both cooks and laypeople at naming odors, although cooks did not perform significantly better than laypeople. Attars' perceptual ratings of odors and their overall odor meta‐awareness suggest they are also more attuned to odors than the other two groups. To conclude, Iranian attars—but not cooks—are better odor namers than laypeople. They also have greater meta‐awareness and differential perceptual responses to odors. These findings further highlight the critical role that expertise and type of experience have on olfactory functions.
Supplementary materialSupplementary Materials
Cattani, A., Floccia, C., Kidd, E., Pettenati, P., Onofrio, D., & Volterra, V. (2019). Gestures and words in naming: Evidence from crosslinguistic and crosscultural comparison. Language Learning, 69(3), 709-746. doi:10.1111/lang.12346.
AbstractWe report on an analysis of spontaneous gesture production in 2‐year‐old children who come from three countries (Italy, United Kingdom, Australia) and who speak two languages (Italian, English), in an attempt to tease apart the influence of language and culture when comparing children from different cultural and linguistic environments. Eighty‐seven monolingual children aged 24–30 months completed an experimental task measuring their comprehension and production of nouns and predicates. The Italian children scored significantly higher than the other groups on all lexical measures. With regard to gestures, British children produced significantly fewer pointing and speech combinations compared to Italian and Australian children, who did not differ from each other. In contrast, Italian children produced significantly more representational gestures than the other two groups. We conclude that spoken language development is primarily influenced by the input language over gesture production, whereas the combination of cultural and language environments affects gesture production.
Cuskley, C., Dingemanse, M., Kirby, S., & Van Leeuwen, T. M. (2019). Cross-modal associations and synesthesia: Categorical perception and structure in vowel–color mappings in a large online sample. Behavior Research Methods, 51, 1651-1675. doi:10.3758/s13428-019-01203-7.
AbstractWe report associations between vowel sounds, graphemes, and colours collected online from over 1000 Dutch speakers. We provide open materials including a Python implementation of the structure measure, and code for a single page web application to run simple cross-modal tasks. We also provide a full dataset of colour-vowel associations from 1164 participants, including over 200 synaesthetes identified using consistency measures. Our analysis reveals salient patterns in cross-modal associations, and introduces a novel measure of isomorphism in cross-modal mappings. We find that while acoustic features of vowels significantly predict certain mappings (replicating prior work), both vowel phoneme category and grapheme category are even better predictors of colour choice. Phoneme category is the best predictor of colour choice overall, pointing to the importance of phonological representations in addition to acoustic cues. Generally, high/front vowels are lighter, more green, and more yellow than low/back vowels. Synaesthetes respond more strongly on some dimensions, choosing lighter and more yellow colours for high and mid front vowels than non-synaesthetes. We also present a novel measure of cross-modal mappings adapted from ecology, which uses a simulated distribution of mappings to measure the extent to which participants' actual mappings are structured isomorphically across modalities. Synaesthetes have mappings that tend to be more structured than non-synaesthetes, and more consistent colour choices across trials correlate with higher structure scores. Nevertheless, the large majority (~70%) of participants produce structured mappings, indicating that the capacity to make isomorphically structured mappings across distinct modalities is shared to a large extent, even if the exact nature of mappings varies across individuals. Overall, this novel structure measure suggests a distribution of structured cross-modal association in the population, with synaesthetes on one extreme and participants with unstructured associations on the other.
Frost, R. L. A., Monaghan, P., & Christiansen, M. H. (2019). Mark my words: High frequency marker words impact early stages of language learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45(10), 1883-1898. doi:10.1037/xlm0000683.
AbstractHigh frequency words have been suggested to benefit both speech segmentation and grammatical categorization of the words around them. Despite utilizing similar information, these tasks are usually investigated separately in studies examining learning. We determined whether including high frequency words in continuous speech could support categorization when words are being segmented for the first time. We familiarized learners with continuous artificial speech comprising repetitions of target words, which were preceded by high-frequency marker words. Crucially, marker words distinguished targets into 2 distributionally defined categories. We measured learning with segmentation and categorization tests and compared performance against a control group that heard the artificial speech without these marker words (i.e., just the targets, with no cues for categorization). Participants segmented the target words from speech in both conditions, but critically when the marker words were present, they influenced acquisition of word-referent mappings in a subsequent transfer task, with participants demonstrating better early learning for mappings that were consistent (rather than inconsistent) with the distributional categories. We propose that high-frequency words may assist early grammatical categorization, while speech segmentation is still being learned.
Supplementary materialSupplemental Material
Frost, R. L. A., Isbilen, E. S., Christiansen, M. H., & Monaghan, P. (2019). Testing the limits of non-adjacent dependency learning: Statistical segmentation and generalisation across domains. In A. K. Goel, C. M. Seifert, & C. Freksa (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019) (pp. 1787-1793). Montreal, QB: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractAchieving linguistic proficiency requires identifying words from speech, and discovering the constraints that govern the way those words are used. In a recent study of non-adjacent dependency learning, Frost and Monaghan (2016) demonstrated that learners may perform these tasks together, using similar statistical processes - contrary to prior suggestions. However, in their study, non-adjacent dependencies were marked by phonological cues (plosive-continuant-plosive structure), which may have influenced learning. Here, we test the necessity of these cues by comparing learning across three conditions; fixed phonology, which contains these cues, varied phonology, which omits them, and shapes, which uses visual shape sequences to assess the generality of statistical processing for these tasks. Participants segmented the sequences and generalized the structure in both auditory conditions, but learning was best when phonological cues were present. Learning was around chance on both tasks for the visual shapes group, indicating statistical processing may critically differ across domains.
Hahn, L. E., Ten Buuren, M., De Nijs, M., Snijders, T. M., & Fikkert, P. (2019). Acquiring novel words in a second language through mutual play with child songs - The Noplica Energy Center. In L. Nijs, H. Van Regenmortel, & C. Arculus (
Eds.), MERYC19 Counterpoints of the senses: Bodily experiences in musical learning (pp. 78-87). Ghent, Belgium: EuNet MERYC 2019.
AbstractChild songs are a great source for linguistic learning. Here we explore whether children can acquire novel words in a second language by playing a game featuring child songs in a playhouse. We present data from three studies that serve as scientific proof for the functionality of one game of the playhouse: the Energy Center. For this game, three hand-bikes were mounted on a panel. When children start moving the hand-bikes, child songs start playing simultaneously. Once the children produce enough energy with the hand-bikes, the songs are additionally accompanied with the sounds of musical instruments. In our studies, children executed a picture-selection task to evaluate whether they acquired new vocabulary from the songs presented during the game. Two of our studies were run in the field, one at a Dutch and one at an Indian pre-school. The third study features data from a more controlled laboratory setting. Our results partly confirm that the Energy Center is a successful means to support vocabulary acquisition in a second language. More research with larger sample sizes and longer access to the Energy Center is needed to evaluate the overall functionality of the game. Based on informal observations at our test sites, however, we are certain that children do pick up linguistic content from the songs during play, as many of the children repeat words and phrases from songs they heard. We will pick up upon these promising observations during future studies
Wu, Q., Kidd, E., & Goodhew, S. C. (2019). The spatial mapping of concepts in English and Mandarin. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 31(7), 703-724. doi:10.1080/20445911.2019.1663354.
AbstractEnglish speakers have been shown to map abstract concepts in space, which occurs on both the vertical and horizontal dimensions. For example, words such as God are associated with up and right spatial locations, and words such as Satan with down and left. If the tendency to map concepts in space is a universal property of human cognition, then it is likely that such mappings may be at least partly culturally-specific, since many concepts are themselves language-specific and therefore cultural conventions. Here we investigated whether Mandarin speakers report spatial mapping of concepts, and how these mappings compare with English speakers (i.e. are words with the same meaning associated with the same spatial locations). Across two studies, results showed that both native English and Mandarin speakers reported spatial mapping of concepts, and that the distribution of mappings was highly similar for the two groups. Theoretical implications are discussed.
McKone, E., Wan, L., Pidcock, M., Crookes, K., Reynolds, K., Dawel, A., Kidd, E., & Fiorentini, C. (2019). A critical period for faces: Other-race face recognition is improved by childhood but not adult social contact. Scientific Reports, 9: 12820. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-49202-0.
AbstractPoor recognition of other-race faces is ubiquitous around the world. We resolve a longstanding contradiction in the literature concerning whether interracial social contact improves the other-race effect. For the first time, we measure the age at which contact was experienced. taking advantage of unusual demographics allowing dissociation of childhood from adult contact, results show sufficient childhood contact eliminated poor other-race recognition altogether (confirming inter-country adoption studies). Critically, however, the developmental window for easy acquisition of other-race faces closed by approximately 12 years of age and social contact as an adult — even over several years and involving many other-race friends — produced no improvement. Theoretically, this pattern of developmental change in plasticity mirrors that found in language, suggesting a shared origin grounded in the functional importance of both skills to social communication. Practically, results imply that, where parents wish to ensure their offspring develop the perceptual skills needed to recognise other-race people easily, childhood experience should be encouraged: just as an English-speaking person who moves to France as a child (but not an adult) can easily become a native speaker of French, we can easily become “native recognisers” of other-race faces via natural social exposure obtained in childhood, but not later
Misersky, J., Majid, A., & Snijders, T. M. (2019). Grammatical gender in German influences how role-nouns are interpreted: Evidence from ERPs. Discourse Processes, 56(8), 643-654. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2018.1541382.
AbstractGrammatically masculine role-nouns (e.g., Studenten-masc.‘students’) can refer to men and women, but may favor an interpretation where only men are considered the referent. If true, this has implications for a society aiming to achieve equal representation in the workplace since, for example, job adverts use such role descriptions. To investigate the interpretation of role-nouns, the present ERP study assessed grammatical gender processing in German. Twenty participants read sentences where a role-noun (masculine or feminine) introduced a group of people, followed by a congruent (masculine–men, feminine–women) or incongruent (masculine–women, feminine–men) continuation. Both for feminine-men and masculine-women continuations a P600 (500 to 800 ms) was observed; another positivity was already present from 300 to 500 ms for feminine-men continuations, but critically not for masculine-women continuations. The results imply a male-biased rather than gender-neutral interpretation of the masculine—despite widespread usage of the masculine as a gender-neutral form—suggesting masculine forms are inadequate for representing genders equally.
Noble, C., Sala, G., Peter, M., Lingwood, J., Rowland, C. F., Gobet, F., & Pine, J. (2019). The impact of shared book reading on children's language skills: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 28: 100290. doi:10.1016/j.edurev.2019.100290.
AbstractShared book reading is thought to have a positive impact on young children's language development, with shared reading interventions often run in an attempt to boost children's language skills. However, despite the volume of research in this area, a number of issues remain outstanding. The current meta-analysis explored whether shared reading interventions are equally effective (a) across a range of study designs; (b) across a range of different outcome variables; and (c) for children from different SES groups. It also explored the potentially moderating effects of intervention duration, child age, use of dialogic reading techniques, person delivering the intervention and mode of intervention delivery. Our results show that, while there is an effect of shared reading on language development, this effect is smaller than reported in previous meta-analyses ( = 0.194, p = .002). They also show that this effect is moderated by the type of control group used and is negligible in studies with active control groups ( = 0.028, p = .703). Finally, they show no significant effects of differences in outcome variable (ps ≥ .286), socio-economic status (p = .658), or any of our other potential moderators (ps ≥ .077), and non-significant effects for studies with follow-ups ( = 0.139, p = .200). On the basis of these results, we make a number of recommendations for researchers and educators about the design and implementation of future shared reading interventions.
Supplementary materialSupplementary data
Parhammer*, S. I., Ebersberg*, M., Tippmann*, J., Stärk*, K., Opitz, A., Hinger, B., & Rossi, S. (2019). The influence of distraction on speech processing: How selective is selective attention? In Proceedings of Interspeech 2019 (pp. 3093-3097). doi:10.21437/Interspeech.2019-2699.
Abstract-* indicates shared first authorship - The present study investigated the effects of selective attention on the processing of morphosyntactic errors in unattended parts of speech. Two groups of German native (L1) speakers participated in the present study. Participants listened to sentences in which irregular verbs were manipulated in three different conditions (correct, incorrect but attested ablaut pattern, incorrect and crosslinguistically unattested ablaut pattern). In order to track fast dynamic neural reactions to the stimuli, electroencephalography was used. After each sentence, participants in Experiment 1 performed a semantic judgement task, which deliberately distracted the participants from the syntactic manipulations and directed their attention to the semantic content of the sentence. In Experiment 2, participants carried out a syntactic judgement task, which put their attention on the critical stimuli. The use of two different attentional tasks allowed for investigating the impact of selective attention on speech processing and whether morphosyntactic processing steps are performed automatically. In Experiment 2, the incorrect attested condition elicited a larger N400 component compared to the correct condition, whereas in Experiment 1 no differences between conditions were found. These results suggest that the processing of morphosyntactic violations in irregular verbs is not entirely automatic but seems to be strongly affected by selective attention.
Peter, M. S., & Rowland, C. F. (2019). Aligning developmental and processing accounts of implicit and statistical learning. Topics in Cognitive Science, 11, 555-572. doi:10.1111/tops.12396.
AbstractA long‐standing question in child language research concerns how children achieve mature syntactic knowledge in the face of a complex linguistic environment. A widely accepted view is that this process involves extracting distributional regularities from the environment in a manner that is incidental and happens, for the most part, without the learner's awareness. In this way, the debate speaks to two associated but separate literatures in language acquisition: statistical learning and implicit learning. Both fields have explored this issue in some depth but, at present, neither the results from the infant studies used by the statistical learning literature nor the artificial grammar learning tasks studies from the implicit learning literature can be used to fully explain how children's syntax becomes adult‐like. In this work, we consider an alternative explanation—that children use error‐based learning to become mature syntax users. We discuss this proposal in the light of the behavioral findings from structural priming studies and the computational findings from Chang, Dell, and Bock's (2006) dual‐path model, which incorporates properties from both statistical and implicit learning, and offers an explanation for syntax learning and structural priming using a common error‐based learning mechanism. We then turn our attention to future directions for the field, here suggesting how structural priming might inform the statistical learning and implicit learning literature on the nature of the learning mechanism.
Peter, M. S., Durrant, S., Jessop, A., Bidgood, A., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2019). Does speed of processing or vocabulary size predict later language growth in toddlers? Cognitive Psychology, 115: 101238. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2019.101238.
AbstractIt is becoming increasingly clear that the way that children acquire cognitive representations depends critically on how their processing system is developing. In particular, recent studies suggest that individual differences in language processing speed play an important role in explaining the speed with which children acquire language. Inconsistencies across studies, however, mean that it is not clear whether this relationship is causal or correlational, whether it is present right across development, or whether it extends beyond word learning to affect other aspects of language learning, like syntax acquisition. To address these issues, the current study used the looking-while-listening paradigm devised by Fernald, Swingley, and Pinto (2001) to test the speed with which a large longitudinal cohort of children (the Language 0–5 Project) processed language at 19, 25, and 31 months of age, and took multiple measures of vocabulary (UKCDI, Lincoln CDI, CDI-III) and syntax (Lincoln CDI) between 8 and 37 months of age. Processing speed correlated with vocabulary size - though this relationship changed over time, and was observed only when there was variation in how well the items used in the looking-while-listening task were known. Fast processing speed was a positive predictor of subsequent vocabulary growth, but only for children with smaller vocabularies. Faster processing speed did, however, predict faster syntactic growth across the whole sample, even when controlling for concurrent vocabulary. The results indicate a relatively direct relationship between processing speed and syntactic development, but point to a more complex interaction between processing speed, vocabulary size and subsequent vocabulary growth.
Quinn, S., & Kidd, E. (2019). Symbolic play promotes non‐verbal communicative exchange in infant–caregiver dyads. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 37(1), 33-50. doi:10.1111/bjdp.12251.
AbstractSymbolic play has long been considered a fertile context for communicative development (Bruner, 1983, Child's talk: Learning to use language, Oxford University Press, Oxford; Vygotsky, 1962, Thought and language, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA; Vygotsky, 1978, Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA). In the current study, we examined caregiver–infant interaction during symbolic play and compared it to interaction in a comparable but non‐symbolic context (i.e., ‘functional’ play). Fifty‐four (N = 54) caregivers and their 18‐month‐old infants were observed engaging in 20 min of play (symbolic, functional). Play interactions were coded and compared across play conditions for joint attention (JA) and gesture use. Compared with functional play, symbolic play was characterized by greater frequency and duration of JA and greater gesture use, particularly the use of iconic gestures with an object in hand. The results suggest that symbolic play provides a rich context for the exchange and negotiation of meaning, and thus may contribute to the development of important skills underlying communicative development.
Räsänen, O., Seshadri, S., Karadayi, J., Riebling, E., Bunce, J., Cristia, A., Metze, F., Casillas, M., Rosemberg, C., Bergelson, E., & Soderstrom, M. (2019). Automatic word count estimation from daylong child-centered recordings in various language environments using language-independent syllabification of speech. Speech Communication, 113, 63-80. doi:10.1016/j.specom.2019.08.005.
AbstractAutomatic word count estimation (WCE) from audio recordings can be used to quantify the amount of verbal communication in a recording environment. One key application of WCE is to measure language input heard by infants and toddlers in their natural environments, as captured by daylong recordings from microphones worn by the infants. Although WCE is nearly trivial for high-quality signals in high-resource languages, daylong recordings are substantially more challenging due to the unconstrained acoustic environments and the presence of near- and far-field speech. Moreover, many use cases of interest involve languages for which reliable ASR systems or even well-defined lexicons are not available. A good WCE system should also perform similarly for low- and high-resource languages in order to enable unbiased comparisons across different cultures and environments. Unfortunately, the current state-of-the-art solution, the LENA system, is based on proprietary software and has only been optimized for American English, limiting its applicability. In this paper, we build on existing work on WCE and present the steps we have taken towards a freely available system for WCE that can be adapted to different languages or dialects with a limited amount of orthographically transcribed speech data. Our system is based on language-independent syllabification of speech, followed by a language-dependent mapping from syllable counts (and a number of other acoustic features) to the corresponding word count estimates. We evaluate our system on samples from daylong infant recordings from six different corpora consisting of several languages and socioeconomic environments, all manually annotated with the same protocol to allow direct comparison. We compare a number of alternative techniques for the two key components in our system: speech activity detection and automatic syllabification of speech. As a result, we show that our system can reach relatively consistent WCE accuracy across multiple corpora and languages (with some limitations). In addition, the system outperforms LENA on three of the four corpora consisting of different varieties of English. We also demonstrate how an automatic neural network-based syllabifier, when trained on multiple languages, generalizes well to novel languages beyond the training data, outperforming two previously proposed unsupervised syllabifiers as a feature extractor for WCE.
Rowland, C. F., & Kidd, E. (2019). Key issues and future directions: How do children acquire language? In P. Hagoort (
Ed.), Human language: From genes and brain to behavior (pp. 181-185). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Tsoi, E. Y. L., Yang, W., Chan, A. W. S., & Kidd, E. (2019). Mandarin-English speaking bilingual and Mandarin speaking monolingual children’s comprehension of relative clauses. Applied Psycholinguistics, 40(4), 933-964. doi:10.1017/S0142716419000079.
AbstractThe current study investigated the comprehension of subject and object relative clauses (RCs) in bilingual Mandarin-English children (N = 55, Mage = 7;5, SD = 1;8) and language-matched monolingual Mandarin-speaking children (N = 59, Mage = 5;4, SD = 0;7). The children completed a referent selection task that tested their comprehension of subject and object RCs, and standardised assessments of vocabulary knowledge. Results showed a very similar pattern of responding in both groups. In comparison to past studies of Cantonese, the bilingual and monolingual children both showed a significant subject-over-object RC advantage. An error analysis suggested that the children’s difficulty with object RCs reflected the tendency to interpret the sentential subject as the head noun. A subsequent corpus analysis suggested that children’s difficulty with object RCs may be in part due to distributional information favouring subject RC analyses. Individual differences analyses suggested cross-linguistic transfer from English to Mandarin in the bilingual children at the individual but not the group level, with the results indicating that comparative English-dominance makes children vulnerable to error
Van den Boomen, C., Fahrenfort, J. J., Snijders, T. M., & Kemner, C. (2019). Slow segmentation of faces in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Neuropsychologia, 127, 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2019.02.005.
AbstractAtypical visual segmentation, affecting object perception, might contribute to face processing problems in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The current study investigated impairments in visual segmentation of faces in ASD. Thirty participants (ASD: 16; Control: 14) viewed texture-defined faces, houses, and homogeneous images, while electroencephalographic and behavioral responses were recorded. The ASD group showed slower face-segmentation related brain activity and longer segmentation reaction times than the control group, but no difference in house-segmentation related activity or behavioral performance. Furthermore, individual differences in face-segmentation but not house-segmentation correlated with score on the Autism Quotient. Segmentation is thus selectively impaired for faces in ASD, and relates to the degree of ASD traits. Face segmentation relates to recurrent connectivity from the fusiform face area (FFA) to the visual cortex. These findings thus suggest that atypical connectivity from the FFA might contribute to delayed face processing in ASD.
Van Leeuwen, T. M., Van Petersen, E., Burghoorn, F., Dingemanse, M., & Van Lier, R. (2019). Autistic traits in synaesthesia: Atypical sensory sensitivity and enhanced perception of details. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 374: 20190024. doi:10.1098/rstb.2019.0024.
AbstractIn synaesthetes specific sensory stimuli (e.g., black letters) elicit additional experiences (e.g. colour). Synaesthesia is highly prevalent among individuals with autism spectrum disorder but the mechanisms of this co-occurrence are not clear. We hypothesized autism and synaesthesia share atypical sensory sensitivity and perception. We assessed autistic traits, sensory sensitivity, and visual perception in two synaesthete populations. In Study 1, synaesthetes (N=79, of different types) scored higher than non-synaesthetes (N=76) on the Attention-to-detail and Social skills subscales of the Autism Spectrum Quotient indexing autistic traits, and on the Glasgow Sensory Questionnaire indexing sensory hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity which frequently occur in autism. Synaesthetes performed two local/global visual tasks because individuals with autism typically show a bias toward detail processing. In synaesthetes, elevated motion coherence thresholds suggested reduced global motion perception and higher accuracy on an embedded figures task suggested enhanced local perception. In Study 2 sequence-space synaesthetes (N=18) completed the same tasks. Questionnaire and embedded figures results qualitatively resembled Study 1 results but no significant group differences with non-synaesthetes (N=20) were obtained. Unexpectedly, sequence-space synaesthetes had reduced motion coherence thresholds. Altogether, our studies suggest atypical sensory sensitivity and a bias towards detail processing are shared features of synaesthesia and autism spectrum disorder.
Wolf, M. C., Muijselaar, M. M. L., Boonstra, A. M., & De Bree, E. H. (2019). The relationship between reading and listening comprehension: Shared and modality-specific components. Reading and Writing, 32(7), 1747-1767. doi:10.1007/s11145-018-9924-8.
AbstractThis study aimed to increase our understanding on the relationship between reading and listening comprehension. Both in comprehension theory and in educational practice, reading and listening comprehension are often seen as interchangeable, overlooking modality-specific aspects of them separately. Three questions were addressed. First, it was examined to what extent reading and listening comprehension comprise modality-specific, distinct skills or an overlapping, domain-general skill in terms of the amount of explained variance in one comprehension type by the opposite comprehension type. Second, general and modality-unique subskills of reading and listening comprehension were sought by assessing the contributions of the foundational skills word reading fluency, vocabulary, memory, attention, and inhibition to both comprehension types. Lastly, the practice of using either listening comprehension or vocabulary as a proxy of general comprehension was investigated. Reading and listening comprehension tasks with the same format were assessed in 85 second and third grade children. Analyses revealed that reading comprehension explained 34% of the variance in listening comprehension, and listening comprehension 40% of reading comprehension. Vocabulary and word reading fluency were found to be shared contributors to both reading and listening comprehension. None of the other cognitive skills contributed significantly to reading or listening comprehension. These results indicate that only part of the comprehension process is indeed domain-general and not influenced by the modality in which the information is provided. Especially vocabulary seems to play a large role in this domain-general part. The findings warrant a more prominent focus of modality-specific aspects of both reading and listening comprehension in research and education.
Wolf, M. C., Smith, A. C., Meyer, A. S., & Rowland, C. F. (2019). Modality effects in vocabulary acquisition. In A. K. Goel, C. M. Seifert, & C. Freksa (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019) (pp. 1212-1218). Montreal, QB: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractIt is unknown whether modality affects the efficiency with which humans learn novel word forms and their meanings, with previous studies reporting both written and auditory advantages. The current study implements controls whose absence in previous work likely offers explanation for such contradictory findings. In two novel word learning experiments, participants were trained and tested on pseudoword - novel object pairs, with controls on: modality of test, modality of meaning, duration of exposure and transparency of word form. In both experiments word forms were presented in either their written or spoken form, each paired with a pictorial meaning (novel object). Following a 20-minute filler task, participants were tested on their ability to identify the picture-word form pairs on which they were trained. A between subjects design generated four participant groups per experiment 1) written training, written test; 2) written training, spoken test; 3) spoken training, written test; 4) spoken training, spoken test. In Experiment 1 the written stimulus was presented for a time period equal to the duration of the spoken form. Results showed that when the duration of exposure was equal, participants displayed a written training benefit. Given words can be read faster than the time taken for the spoken form to unfold, in Experiment 2 the written form was presented for 300 ms, sufficient time to read the word yet 65% shorter than the duration of the spoken form. No modality effect was observed under these conditions, when exposure to the word form was equivalent. These results demonstrate, at least for proficient readers, that when exposure to the word form is controlled across modalities the efficiency with which word form-meaning associations are learnt does not differ. Our results therefore suggest that, although we typically begin as aural-only word learners, we ultimately converge on developing learning mechanisms that learn equally efficiently from both written and spoken materials.
Zuidema, W., French, R. M., Alhama, R. G., Ellis, K., O'Donnell, T. J. O., Sainburgh, T., & Gentner, T. Q. (2019). Five ways in which computational modeling can help advance cognitive science: Lessons from artificial grammar learning. Topics in Cognitive Science. Advance online publication. doi:10.1111/tops.12474.
AbstractThere is a rich tradition of building computational models in cognitive science, but modeling, theoretical, and experimental research are not as tightly integrated as they could be. In this paper, we show that computational techniques—even simple ones that are straightforward to use—can greatly facilitate designing, implementing, and analyzing experiments, and generally help lift research to a new level. We focus on the domain of artificial grammar learning, and we give five concrete examples in this domain for (a) formalizing and clarifying theories, (b) generating stimuli, (c) visualization, (d) model selection, and (e) exploring the hypothesis space.
Bergmann, C., Tsuji, S., Piccinini, P. E., Lewis, M. L., Braginsky, M. B., Frank, M. C., & Cristia, A. (2018). Promoting replicability in developmental research through meta-analyses: Insights from language acquisition research. Child Development, 89(6), 1996-2009. doi:10.1111/cdev.13079.
AbstractPrevious work suggests key factors for replicability, a necessary feature for theory building, include statistical power and appropriate research planning. These factors are examined by analyzing a collection of 12 standardized meta-analyses on language development between birth and 5 years. With a median effect size of Cohen's d= 0.45 and typical sample size of 18 participants, most research is underpowered (range: 6%-99%; median 44%); and calculating power based on seminal publications is not a suitable strategy. Method choice can be improved, as shown in analyses on exclusion rates and effect size as a function of method. The article ends with a discussion on how to increase replicability in both language acquisition studies specifically and developmental research more generally.
Bergmann, C., & Cristia, A. (2018). Environmental influences on infants’ native vowel discrimination: The case of talker number in daily life. Infancy, 23(4), 484-501. doi:10.1111/infa.12232.
AbstractBoth quality and quantity of speech from the primary caregiver have been found to impact language development. A third aspect of the input has been largely ignored: the number of talkers who provide input. Some infants spend most of their waking time with only one person; others hear many different talkers. Even if the very same words are spoken the same number of times, the pronunciations can be more variable when several talkers pronounce them. Is language acquisition affected by the number of people who provide input? To shed light on the possible link between how many people provide input in daily life and infants’ native vowel discrimination, three age groups were tested: 4-month-olds (before attunement to native vowels), 6-month-olds (at the cusp of native vowel attunement) and 12-month-olds (well attuned to the native vowel system). No relationship was found between talker number and native vowel discrimination skills in 4- and 6-month-olds, who are overall able to discriminate the vowel contrast. At 12 months, we observe a small positive relationship, but further analyses reveal that the data are also compatible with the null hypothesis of no relationship. Implications in the context of infant language acquisition and cognitive development are discussed.
Bögels, S., Casillas, M., & Levinson, S. C. (2018). Planning versus comprehension in turn-taking: Fast responders show reduced anticipatory processing of the question. Neuropsychologia, 109, 295-310. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.12.028.
AbstractRapid response latencies in conversation suggest that responders start planning before the ongoing turn is finished. Indeed, an earlier EEG study suggests that listeners start planning their responses to questions as soon as they can (Bögels, S., Magyari, L., & Levinson, S. C. (2015). Neural signatures of response planning occur midway through an incoming question in conversation. Scientific Reports, 5, 12881). The present study aimed to (1) replicate this early planning effect and (2) investigate whether such early response planning incurs a cost on participants’ concurrent comprehension of the ongoing turn. During the experiment participants answered questions from a confederate partner. To address aim (1), the questions were designed such that response planning could start either early or late in the turn. Our results largely replicate Bögels et al. (2015) showing a large positive ERP effect and an oscillatory alpha/beta reduction right after participants could have first started planning their verbal response, again suggesting an early start of response planning. To address aim (2), the confederate's questions also contained either an expected word or an unexpected one to elicit a differential N400 effect, either before or after the start of response planning. We hypothesized an attenuated N400 effect after response planning had started. In contrast, the N400 effects before and after planning did not differ. There was, however, a positive correlation between participants' response time and their N400 effect size after planning had started; quick responders showed a smaller N400 effect, suggesting reduced attention to comprehension and possibly reduced anticipatory processing. We conclude that early response planning can indeed impact comprehension processing.
Cristia, A., Ganesh, S., Casillas, M., & Ganapathy, S. (2018). Talker diarization in the wild: The case of child-centered daylong audio-recordings. In Proceedings of Interspeech 2018 (pp. 2583-2587). doi:10.21437/Interspeech.2018-2078.
AbstractSpeaker diarization (answering 'who spoke when') is a widely researched subject within speech technology. Numerous experiments have been run on datasets built from broadcast news, meeting data, and call centers—the task sometimes appears close to being solved. Much less work has begun to tackle the hardest diarization task of all: spontaneous conversations in real-world settings. Such diarization would be particularly useful for studies of language acquisition, where researchers investigate the speech children produce and hear in their daily lives. In this paper, we study audio gathered with a recorder worn by small children as they went about their normal days. As a result, each child was exposed to different acoustic environments with a multitude of background noises and a varying number of adults and peers. The inconsistency of speech and noise within and across samples poses a challenging task for speaker diarization systems, which we tackled via retraining and data augmentation techniques. We further studied sources of structured variation across raw audio files, including the impact of speaker type distribution, proportion of speech from children, and child age on diarization performance. We discuss the extent to which these findings might generalize to other samples of speech in the wild.
Floccia, C., Sambrook, T. D., Delle Luche, C., Kwok, R., Goslin, J., White, L., Cattani, A., Sullivan, E., Abbot-Smith, K., Krott, A., Mills, D., Rowland, C. F., Gervain, J., & Plunkett, K. (2018). Vocabulary of 2-year-olds learning learning English and an additional language: Norms and effects of linguistic distance. Hoboken: Wiley. doi:10.1111/mono.12348.
Hahn, L. E., Benders, T., Snijders, T. M., & Fikkert, P. (2018). Infants' sensitivity to rhyme in songs. Infant Behavior and Development, 52, 130-139. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2018.07.002.
AbstractChildren’s songs often contain rhyming words at phrase endings. In this study, we investigated whether infants can already recognize this phonological pattern in songs. Earlier studies using lists of spoken words were equivocal on infants’ spontaneous processing of rhymes (Hayes, Slater, & Brown, 2000; Jusczyk, Goodman, & Baumann, 1999). Songs, however, constitute an ecologically valid rhyming stimulus, which could allow for spontaneous processing of this phonological pattern in infants. Novel children’s songs with rhyming and non-rhyming lyrics using pseudo-words were presented to 35 9-month-old Dutch infants using the Headturn Preference Procedure. Infants on average listened longer to the non-rhyming songs, with around half of the infants however exhibiting a preference for the rhyming songs. These results highlight that infants have the processing abilities to benefit from their natural rhyming input for the development of their phonological abilities.
Isbilen, E., Frost, R. L. A., Monaghan, P., & Christiansen, M. (2018). Bridging artificial and natural language learning: Comparing processing- and reflection-based measures of learning. In C. Kalish, M. Rau, J. Zhu, & T. T. Rogers (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2018) (pp. 1856-1861). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractA common assumption in the cognitive sciences is that artificial and natural language learning rely on shared mechanisms. However, attempts to bridge the two have yielded ambiguous results. We suggest that an empirical disconnect between the computations employed during learning and the methods employed at test may explain these mixed results. Further, we propose statistically-based chunking as a potential computational link between artificial and natural language learning. We compare the acquisition of non-adjacent dependencies to that of natural language structure using two types of tasks: reflection-based 2AFC measures, and processing-based recall measures, the latter being more computationally analogous to the processes used during language acquisition. Our results demonstrate that task-type significantly influences the correlations observed between artificial and natural language acquisition, with reflection-based and processing-based measures correlating within – but not across – task-type. These findings have fundamental implications for artificial-to-natural language comparisons, both methodologically and theoretically.
Kalashnikova, M., Escudero, P., & Kidd, E. (2018). The development of fast-mapping and novel word retention strategies in monolingual and bilingual infants. Developmental Science, 21(6): e12674. doi:10.1111/desc.12674.
AbstractThe mutual exclusivity (ME) assumption is proposed to facilitate early word learning by guiding infants to map novel words to novel referents. This study assessed the emergence and use of ME to both disambiguate and retain the meanings of novel words across development in 18‐month‐old monolingual and bilingual children (Experiment 1; N = 58), and in a sub‐group of these children again at 24 months of age (Experiment 2: N = 32). Both monolinguals and bilinguals employed ME to select the referent of a novel label to a similar extent at 18 and 24 months. At 18 months, there were also no differences in novel word retention between the two language‐background groups. However, at 24 months, only monolinguals showed the ability to retain these label–object mappings. These findings indicate that the development of the ME assumption as a reliable word‐learning strategy is shaped by children's individual language exposure and experience with language use.
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Kidd, E., Junge, C., Spokes, T., Morrison, L., & Cutler, A. (2018). Individual differences in infant speech segmentation: Achieving the lexical shift. Infancy, 23(6), 770-794. doi:10.1111/infa.12256.
AbstractWe report a large‐scale electrophysiological study of infant speech segmentation, in which over 100 English‐acquiring 9‐month‐olds were exposed to unfamiliar bisyllabic words embedded in sentences (e.g., He saw a wild eagle up there), after which their brain responses to either the just‐familiarized word (eagle) or a control word (coral) were recorded. When initial exposure occurs in continuous speech, as here, past studies have reported that even somewhat older infants do not reliably recognize target words, but that successful segmentation varies across children. Here, we both confirm and further uncover the nature of this variation. The segmentation response systematically varied across individuals and was related to their vocabulary development. About one‐third of the group showed a left‐frontally located relative negativity in response to familiar versus control targets, which has previously been described as a mature response. Another third showed a similarly located positive‐going reaction (a previously described immature response), and the remaining third formed an intermediate grouping that was primarily characterized by an initial response delay. A fine‐grained group‐level analysis suggested that a developmental shift to a lexical mode of processing occurs toward the end of the first year, with variation across individual infants in the exact timing of this shift.
Supplementary materialsupporting information
Kidd, E., Donnelly, S., & Christiansen, M. H. (2018). Individual differences in language acquisition and processing. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22(2), 154-169. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2017.11.006.
AbstractHumans differ in innumerable ways, with considerable variation observable at every level of description, from the molecular to the social. Traditionally, linguistic and psycholinguistic theory has downplayed the possibility of meaningful differences in language across individuals. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that there is significant variation among speakers at any age as well as across the lifespan. In this paper, we review recent research in psycholinguistics, and argue that a focus on individual differences provides a crucial source of evidence that bears strongly upon core issues in theories of the acquisition and processing of language; specifically, the role of experience in language acquisition, processing, and attainment, and the architecture of the language faculty.
Kidd, L., & Rowland, C. F. (2018). The effect of language-focused professional development on the knowledge and behaviour of preschool practitioners. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/1468798418803664.
AbstractThe purpose of this project was to investigate the effectiveness of a language-focused professional development programme on the knowledge and behaviour of preschool practitioners (sometimes called early years practitioners) in the UK. In Study 1 we determined whether the training received by practitioners is effective in improving their knowledge of how to support children’s language and communicative development. In Study 2 we tested whether trained practitioners, and practitioners from centres with embedded Language Champions, were able to implement the techniques they had been taught. For this, we video-recorded practitioners interacting, one to one, with 2- and 3–4-year-old children in their centres. We conclude that (1) practitioners retain the knowledge they have been taught, both about how children learn and about how to promote this learning, and that (2), in some respects, this knowledge translates well into practice; practitioners in centres with embedded Language Champions and trained practitioners used language-enriching behaviours when interacting with children more often than did untrained practitioners. We discuss how the translation of some techniques into overt behaviour could be made more effective
Quinn, S., Donnelly, S., & Kidd, E. (2018). The relationship between symbolic play and language acquisition: A meta-analytic review. Developmental Review, 49, 121-135. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2018.05.005.
AbstractA developmental relationship between symbolic play and language has been long proposed, going as far back as the writings of Piaget and Vygotsky. In the current paper we build on recent qualitative reviews of the literature by reporting the first quantitative analysis of the relationship. We conducted a three-level meta-analysis of past studies that have investigated the relationship between symbolic play and language acquisition. Thirty-five studies (N = 6848) met the criteria for inclusion. Overall, we observed a significant small-to-medium association between the two domains (r = .35). Several moderating variables were included in the analyses, including: (i) study design (longitudinal, concurrent), (ii) the manner in which language was measured (comprehension, production), and (iii) the age at which this relationship is measured. The effect was weakly moderated by these three variables, but overall the association was robust, suggesting that symbolic play and language are closely related in development.
Räsänen, O., Seshadri, S., & Casillas, M. (2018). Comparison of syllabification algorithms and training strategies for robust word count estimation across different languages and recording conditions. In Proceedings of Interspeech 2018 (pp. 1200-1204). doi:10.21437/Interspeech.2018-1047.
AbstractWord count estimation (WCE) from audio recordings has a number of applications, including quantifying the amount of speech that language-learning infants hear in their natural environments, as captured by daylong recordings made with devices worn by infants. To be applicable in a wide range of scenarios and also low-resource domains, WCE tools should be extremely robust against varying signal conditions and require minimal access to labeled training data in the target domain. For this purpose, earlier work has used automatic syllabification of speech, followed by a least-squares-mapping of syllables to word counts. This paper compares a number of previously proposed syllabifiers in the WCE task, including a supervised bi-directional long short-term memory (BLSTM) network that is trained on a language for which high quality syllable annotations are available (a “high resource language”), and reports how the alternative methods compare on different languages and signal conditions. We also explore additive noise and varying-channel data augmentation strategies for BLSTM training, and show how they improve performance in both matching and mismatching languages. Intriguingly, we also find that even though the BLSTM works on languages beyond its training data, the unsupervised algorithms can still outperform it in challenging signal conditions on novel languages.
Von Holzen, K., & Bergmann, C. (2018). A Meta-Analysis of Infants’ Mispronunciation Sensitivity Development. In C. Kalish, M. Rau, J. Zhu, & T. T. Rogers (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2018) (pp. 1159-1164). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractBefore infants become mature speakers of their native language, they must acquire a robust word-recognition system which allows them to strike the balance between allowing some variation (mood, voice, accent) and recognizing variability that potentially changes meaning (e.g. cat vs hat). The current meta-analysis quantifies how the latter, termed mispronunciation sensitivity, changes over infants’ first three years, testing competing predictions of mainstream language acquisition theories. Our results show that infants were sensitive to mispronunciations, but accepted them as labels for target objects. Interestingly, and in contrast to predictions of mainstream theories, mispronunciation sensitivity was not modulated by infant age, suggesting that a sufficiently flexible understanding of native language phonology is in place at a young age.
Abbot-Smith, K., Chang, F., Rowland, C. F., Ferguson, H., & Pine, J. (2017). Do two and three year old children use an incremental first-NP-as-agent bias to process active transitive and passive sentences?: A permutation analysis. PLoS One, 12(10): e0186129. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0186129.
AbstractWe used eye-tracking to investigate if and when children show an incremental bias to assume that the first noun phrase in a sentence is the agent (first-NP-as-agent bias) while processing the meaning of English active and passive transitive sentences. We also investigated whether children can override this bias to successfully distinguish active from passive sentences, after processing the remainder of the sentence frame. For this second question we used eye-tracking (Study 1) and forced-choice pointing (Study 2). For both studies, we used a paradigm in which participants simultaneously saw two novel actions with reversed agent-patient relations while listening to active and passive sentences. We compared English-speaking 25-month-olds and 41-month-olds in between-subjects sentence structure conditions (Active Transitive Condition vs. Passive Condition). A permutation analysis found that both age groups showed a bias to incrementally map the first noun in a sentence onto an agent role. Regarding the second question, 25-month-olds showed some evidence of distinguishing the two structures in the eye-tracking study. However, the 25-month-olds did not distinguish active from passive sentences in the forced choice pointing task. In contrast, the 41-month-old children did reanalyse their initial first-NP-as-agent bias to the extent that they clearly distinguished between active and passive sentences both in the eye-tracking data and in the pointing task. The results are discussed in relation to the development of syntactic (re)parsing.
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Casillas, M., Bergelson, E., Warlaumont, A. S., Cristia, A., Soderstrom, M., VanDam, M., & Sloetjes, H. (2017). A New Workflow for Semi-automatized Annotations: Tests with Long-Form Naturalistic Recordings of Childrens Language Environments. In Proceedings of Interspeech 2017 (pp. 2098-2102). doi:10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1418.
AbstractInteroperable annotation formats are fundamental to the utility, expansion, and sustainability of collective data repositories.In language development research, shared annotation schemes have been critical to facilitating the transition from raw acoustic data to searchable, structured corpora. Current schemes typically require comprehensive and manual annotation of utterance boundaries and orthographic speech content, with an additional, optional range of tags of interest. These schemes have been enormously successful for datasets on the scale of dozens of recording hours but are untenable for long-format recording corpora, which routinely contain hundreds to thousands of audio hours. Long-format corpora would benefit greatly from (semi-)automated analyses, both on the earliest steps of annotation—voice activity detection, utterance segmentation, and speaker diarization—as well as later steps—e.g., classification-based codes such as child-vs-adult-directed speech, and speech recognition to produce phonetic/orthographic representations. We present an annotation workflow specifically designed for long-format corpora which can be tailored by individual researchers and which interfaces with the current dominant scheme for short-format recordings. The workflow allows semi-automated annotation and analyses at higher linguistic levels. We give one example of how the workflow has been successfully implemented in a large cross-database project.
Casillas, M., Amatuni, A., Seidl, A., Soderstrom, M., Warlaumont, A., & Bergelson, E. (2017). What do Babies hear? Analyses of Child- and Adult-Directed Speech. In Proceedings of Interspeech 2017 (pp. 2093-2097). doi:10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1409.
AbstractChild-directed speech is argued to facilitate language development, and is found cross-linguistically and cross-culturally to varying degrees. However, previous research has generally focused on short samples of child-caregiver interaction, often in the lab or with experimenters present. We test the generalizability of this phenomenon with an initial descriptive analysis of the speech heard by young children in a large, unique collection of naturalistic, daylong home recordings. Trained annotators coded automatically-detected adult speech 'utterances' from 61 homes across 4 North American cities, gathered from children (age 2-24 months) wearing audio recorders during a typical day. Coders marked the speaker gender (male/female) and intended addressee (child/adult), yielding 10,886 addressee and gender tags from 2,523 minutes of audio (cf. HB-CHAAC Interspeech ComParE challenge; Schuller et al., in press). Automated speaker-diarization (LENA) incorrectly gender-tagged 30% of male adult utterances, compared to manually-coded consensus. Furthermore, we find effects of SES and gender on child-directed and overall speech, increasing child-directed speech with child age, and interactions of speaker gender, child gender, and child age: female caretakers increased their child-directed speech more with age than male caretakers did, but only for male infants. Implications for language acquisition and existing classification algorithms are discussed.
Jones, G., & Rowland, C. F. (2017). Diversity not quantity in caregiver speech: Using computational modeling to isolate the effects of the quantity and the diversity of the input on vocabulary growth. Cognitive Psychology, 98, 1-21. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2017.07.002.
AbstractChildren who hear large amounts of diverse speech learn language more quickly than children who do not. However, high correlations between the amount and the diversity of the input in speech samples makes it difficult to isolate the influence of each. We overcame this problem by controlling the input to a computational model so that amount of exposure to linguistic input (quantity) and the quality of that input (lexical diversity) were independently manipulated. Sublexical, lexical, and multi-word knowledge were charted across development (Study 1), showing that while input quantity may be important early in learning, lexical diversity is ultimately more crucial, a prediction confirmed against children’s data (Study 2). The model trained on a lexically diverse input also performed better on nonword repetition and sentence recall tests (Study 3) and was quicker to learn new words over time (Study 4). A language input that is rich in lexical diversity outperforms equivalent richness in quantity for learned sublexical and lexical knowledge, for well-established language tests, and for acquiring words that have never been encountered before.
Monaghan, P., & Rowland, C. F. (2017). Combining language corpora with experimental and computational approaches for language acquisition research. Language Learning, 67(S1), 14-39. doi:10.1111/lang.12221.
AbstractHistorically, first language acquisition research was a painstaking process of observation, requiring the laborious hand coding of children's linguistic productions, followed by the generation of abstract theoretical proposals for how the developmental process unfolds. Recently, the ability to collect large-scale corpora of children's language exposure has revolutionized the field. New techniques enable more precise measurements of children's actual language input, and these corpora constrain computational and cognitive theories of language development, which can then generate predictions about learning behavior. We describe several instances where corpus, computational, and experimental work have been productively combined to uncover the first language acquisition process and the richness of multimodal properties of the environment, highlighting how these methods can be extended to address related issues in second language research. Finally, we outline some of the difficulties that can be encountered when applying multimethod approaches and show how these difficulties can be obviated
Rowland, C. F., & Monaghan, P. (2017). Developmental psycholinguistics teaches us that we need multi-method, not single-method, approaches to the study of linguistic representation. Commentary on Branigan and Pickering "An experimental approach to linguistic representation". Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40: e308. doi:10.1017/S0140525X17000565.
AbstractIn developmental psycholinguistics, we have, for many years, been generating and testing theories that propose both descriptions of adult representations and explanations of how those representations develop. We have learnt that restricting ourselves to any one methodology yields only incomplete data about the nature of linguistic representations. We argue that we need a multi-method approach to the study of representation.