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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.
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.
Dingemanse, M. (in press). Resource-rationality beyond individual minds: the case of interactive language use. Behavioural and Brain Sciences.
AbstractResource-rational approaches offer much promise for understanding human cognition, especially if they can reach beyond the confines of individual minds. Language allows people to transcend individual resource limitations by augmenting computation and enabling distributed cognition. Interactive language use, an environment where social rational agents routinely deal with resource constraints together, offers a natural laboratory to test resource-rationality in the wild.
Kidd, E., & Donnelly, S. (in press). Individual differences in first language acquisition. Annual Review of Linguistics.
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.
The ManyBabies Consortium (in press). Quantifying sources of variability in infancy research using the infant-directed speech preference. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science.
Tsuji, S., Cristia, A., Frank, M. C., & Bergmann, C. (in press). Addressing publication bias in meta-analysis: Empirical findings from community-augmented meta-analyses of infant language development. Zeitschrift für Psychologie.
Van Leeuwen, T. M., Van Petersen, E., Burghoorn, F., Dingemanse, M., & Van Lier, R. (in press). Autistic traits in synaesthesia: Atypical sensory sensitivity and enhanced perception of details. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences.
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.
Zuidema, W., French, R. M., Alhama, R. G., Ellis, K., O'Donnell, T., Sainburgh, T., & Gentner, T. (in press). Five ways in which computational modeling can help advance cognitive science: Lessons from artificial grammar learning. Topics in Cognitive Science.
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.
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.
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., 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.
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
Wu, Q., Kidd, E., & Goodhew, S. C. (2019). The spatial mapping of concepts in English and Mandarin. Journal of Cognitive Psychology. Advance online publication. 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.
Lingwood, J., Levy, R., Billington, J., & Rowland, C. F. (2019). Barriers and solutions to participation in family-based education interventions. International Journal of Social Research Methodology. Advance online publication. 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
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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
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. Advance online publication. 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. Advance online publication. 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. Advance online publication. 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.
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.
Supplementary materialSupplementary material
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Supplementary materialData available from OSF
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.