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Previous research on infant-directed speech (IDS) and its role in infants’ language development has largely focused on mothers, with fathers being investigated scarcely. Here we examine the acoustics of IDS as compared to adult-directed speech (ADS) in Norwegian mothers and fathers to 8-month-old infants, and whether these relate to direct (eye-tracking) and indirect (parental report) measures of infants’ word comprehension. Forty-five parent-infant dyads participated in the study. Parents (24 mothers, 21 fathers) were recorded reading a picture book to their infant (IDS), and to an experimenter (ADS), ensuring identical linguistic context across speakers and registers. Results showed that both mothers’ and fathers’ IDS had exaggerated prosody, expanded vowel spaces, as well as more variable and less distinct vowels. We found no evidence that acoustic features of parents’ speech were associated with infants’ word comprehension. Potential reasons for the lack of such a relationship are discussed.
Yarkoni's analysis clearly articulates a number of concerns limiting the generalizability and explanatory power of psychological findings, many of which are compounded in infancy research. ManyBabies addresses these concerns via a radically collaborative, large-scale and open approach to research that is grounded in theory-building, committed to diversification, and focused on understanding sources of variation.
Children learn words in ambiguous situations, where multiple objects can potentially be referents for a new word. Yet, researchers debate whether children maintain a single word-object hypothesis – and revise it if falsified by later information – or whether children establish a network of word-object associations whose relative strengths are modulated with experience. To address this issue, we presented 4- to 12-year-old children with sets of mutual exclusivity (fast-mapping) trials: offering them with obvious initial hypotheses (that the novel object is the referent for the novel word). We observe that children aged six years and above, despite showing a novelty bias and retaining this novel word – novel object association, also formed an association between the novel word and the name-known object, thereby suggesting that older children attend to more than one word-object association, in a manner similar to associative learning. We discuss our findings in the context of competing theoretical accounts related to word learning.
Multi-accent environments offer rich but inconsistent language input, as words are produced differently across accents. The current study examined, in two experiments, whether multi-accent variability affects infants’ ability to learn words and whether toddlers’ prior experience with accents modulates learning. In Experiment 1, two-and-a-half-year-old Norwegian toddlers were exposed, in their kindergarten, twice per day for one week, to a child-friendly audiovisual tablet-based e-book containing four novel pseudowords. Half of the toddlers heard the story in three Norwegian accents, whereas the other half heard it in one Norwegian accent. The results revealed no differences between conditions, suggesting that multi-accent variability did not hinder toddlers’ word learning. In experiment 2, two-and-a-half-year-old Norwegian toddlers were exposed, in their homes, for one week, to the e-book featuring three Norwegian accents. The results revealed overall better learning in toddlers raised in bi-dialectal households, as compared to mono-dialectal peers – suggesting that accent exposure benefits learning in multi-accent environments.
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