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Previous research on motion expression indicates that typological properties influence how speakers select and express information in discourse (Slobin, 2004; Talmy, 2000). The present study further addresses this question by examining the expression of caused motion by adults and children (three to ten years) in French (Verb-framed) vs. English and German (Satellite-framed). Participants narrated short animated cartoons showing an agent displacing objects and varying along several dimensions (Path, Manner). A significant increase with age was found in the number of expressed motion components in all languages, as well as an influence of Path (vertical > boundary crossing). However, at all ages, participants encoded more information in English and German than in French, where more variation and structural changes occurred with increasing age. These findings highlight both cognitive and typological factors impacting the expression of caused motion in development. Implications of our findings are sketched in the ‘Discussion’.
We explored whether supported (SJE) or coordinated joint engagement (CJE) between mothers recruited from the community and their 24-month-old children who were slow-to-talk at 18 months old were associated with child language scores at ages 24, 36, and 48 months (n = 197). We further explored whether SJE or CJE modified the concurrent positive associations between maternal responsive behaviours and language scores. Previous research has shown that SJE, maternal expansions, imitations, and responsive questions were associated with better language scores. Our main finding was that SJE but not CJE was consistently positively associated with 24- and 36-month-old expressive and receptive language scores, but not with 48-month-old language scores. SJE modified how expansions and imitations, but not responsive questions, were associated with language scores; the associations were evident in all but the highest levels of SJE. Further research is necessary to test these findings in other samples before clinical recommendations can be made.
Word segmentation plays a crucial role in language acquisition, particularly for word learning and syntax development, and possibly predicts later language abilities. Previous studies have suggested that this ability develops differently across languages, possibly affected by the languages’ rhythmic properties (Rhythmic Segmentation Hypothesis) and target word location in the prosodic structure (Edge Hypothesis). The present study investigates early word segmentation in a language, European Portuguese, that exhibits both stress- and syllable-timed properties, as well as strong cues to both higher-level prosodic boundaries and the word level. Infants aged 4–10 months old were tested with target words located in utterance-medial and utterance-final positions. Evidence for word segmentation was found early in development but only for utterance-edge located target words, suggesting the more salient prosodic cues play a crucial role. There was some evidence for segmentation in utterance-medial position by 10 months, demonstrating that this ability is not yet fully developed, possibly due to mixed rhythmic properties.
To determine whether the developing semantic lexicon varies with culture, we examined the animal and food naming of children from three communities distinguished by language, cultural heritage, and population density. The children were five- and seven-year-olds from Australia (n = 197), Taiwan (n = 456), and the US (n = 172). Naming patterns revealed hierarchical and flexible organization of the semantic lexicon. The content of the lexicon, particularly food names, varied with cultural heritage. In all three communities, wild mammals were predominant during animal naming, a likely influence of children's media. The influence of the Chinese zodiac was evident in the clustering of animal names in the Taiwanese sample. There was no apparent influence of population density and little influence of language, except that the Taiwanese children more frequently named foods at the superordinate level, a possible influence of the structure of Mandarin. Children develop their lexicons in response to culture as experienced first-hand or through media.
This paper reports on an original study designed to investigate age-related change in the way French children produce speech during oral narrative, considering both prosodic parameters – speaking rate and duration of the prosodic speech unit – and linguistic structure. Eighty-five French children aged four to eleven years were asked to tell a story after they were shown an excerpt from an animated film. All their remarks were transcribed and coded using ELAN as an annotation tool. Each narrative was analyzed for duration, articulation rate, and linguistic components (i.e., number of phonic groups, syllables, words, clauses). All measures were found to increase with age, with the duration of the phonic group and its linguistic structure showing the stronger differences. Results contribute to providing reference data on speech production during childhood, and they suggest the existence of two distinct developmental patterns in narrative production.
Previous studies on bilingual children found intact tonal development at the initial stages of interaction between Cantonese and English in successive bilingual children, whereas children exposed to both languages from birth have not been studied in this regard. We examined the production of Cantonese tones by five simultaneous bilingual children longitudinally at 2;0 and 2;6, and compared them with age-matched monolingual children using auditory analysis. Our results showed that some bilingual children had a delay at 2;0, compared to their monolingual peers. Some bilingual children also exhibited a ‘high–low’ template in their production, resembling the pitch pattern of English trochaic words. These findings suggest a possible early interaction of the Cantonese and English prosodic systems in which bilingual children adopted the English stress pattern in Cantonese production. The time-point along the trajectory of phonological development is important in modulating whether cross-linguistic transfer can be observed.
The study tested the impact of the phonological distance between Spoken Arabic (SpA) and Standard Arabic (StA) on quality of phonological representations among kindergarten, first-, second-, and sixth-grade Arabic-speaking children (N = 120). A pronunciation accuracy judgment task targeted three types of StA words that varied in extent of phonological distance from their form in SpA: (a) identical words, with an identical lexical–phonological form in StA and SpA; (b) cognate words, with partially overlapping phonological forms; items in this category varied in degree of phonological distance too; and (c) unique words with entirely different lexical–phonological forms. Multilevel Regression analysis showed that phonological distance had a significant impact on quality of phonological representations across all grades. Growth in quality of phonological representations was mainly noted between the three younger groups and the sixth-graders. Implications for the impact of phonological distance on phonological representations and on language and literacy development are discussed.
School-age children's understanding of unfamiliar accents is not adult-like and the age at which this ability fully matures is unknown. To address this gap, eight- to fifteen-year-old children's (n = 74) understanding of native- and non-native-accented sentences in quiet and noise was assessed. Children's performance was adult-like by eleven to twelve years for the native accent in noise and by fourteen to fifteen years for the non-native accent in quiet. However, fourteen- to fifteen-year old's performance was not adult-like for the non-native accent in noise. Thus, adult-like comprehension of unfamiliar accents may require greater exposure to linguistic variability or additional cognitive–linguistic growth.
Young children are conservative when extending novel verbs to novel exemplars. We investigated whether multiple, simultaneously presented exemplars would aid young children's verb learning, as well as the importance of exemplar variability. Three-year-olds were taught novel verbs, while viewing either one action-scene featuring a novel action performed on a novel object, or two action-scenes side-by-side in which the action performed was the same but the object varied, or two action-scenes side-by-side in which no aspect of the scenes varied. They were asked to extend the novel verbs to one of two scenes: one that maintained the action and one that maintained the object. Findings indicated that children were only able to extend verbs correctly after viewing two action-scenes in which the content varied. These findings suggest that simultaneously presented exemplars of a verb can support verb learning in younger children, but only when the content of the exemplars varies.
Socio-economic status (SES) impacts the amount and type of input children hear in ways that have developmental consequences. Here, we examine the effect of SES on the use of variation sets (successive utterances with partial self-repetitions) in child-directed speech (CDS). Variation sets have been found to facilitate language learning, but have been studied only in higher-SES groups. Here, we examine their use in naturalistic speech in two languages (Hebrew and English) for both low- and high-SES caregivers. We find that variation sets are more frequent in the input of high-SES caregivers in both languages, indicating that SES also impacts structural properties of CDS.
This study tested infants’ ability to segregate target speech from a background of ecologically valid multi-talker speech at a 10 dB SNR. Using the Headturn Preference Procedure, 72 English-learning 5-, 9-, and 12-month-old monolinguals were tested on their ability to detect and perceive their own name. At all three ages infants were able to detect the presence of the target speech, but only at 9 months did they show sensitivity to the phonetic details that distinguished their own name from other names. These results extend previous findings on infants’ speech perception in noise to more naturalistic forms of background speech.