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This study is a validation of the LENA system for the Italian language. In Study 1, to test LENA’s accuracy, seventy-two 10-minute samples extracted from daylong LENA recordings were manually transcribed for 12 children longitudinally observed at 1;0 and 2;0. We found strong correlations between LENA and human estimates in the number of Adult Word Count (AWC) and Child Vocalisations Count (CVC) and a weak correlation between LENA and human estimates in Conversational Turns Count (CTC). In Study 2, to test the concurrent validity, direct and indirect language measures were considered on a sample of 54 recordings (19 children). Correlational analyses showed that LENA’s CVC and CTC were significantly related to the children’s vocal production, a parent report measure of prelexical vocalizations and the vocal reactivity scores. These results confirm that the automatic analyses performed by the LENA device are reliable and powerful for studying language development in Italian-speaking infants.
The relationship between first and second language in early vocabulary acquisition in bilingual children is still debated in the literature. This study compared the expressive vocabulary of 39 equivalently low-SES two-year-old bilingual children from immigrant families with different heritage languages (Romanian vs. Nigerian English) and the same majority language (Italian). Vocabulary size, vocabulary composition and translation equivalents (TEs) were assessed using the Italian/L1 versions of the CDI. Higher vocabulary in Italian than in the heritage language emerged in both groups. Moreover, Romanian-Italian-speaking children produced higher proportions of TEs than Nigerian English-Italian-speaking children, suggesting that L1-L2 phonological similarity facilitates the acquisition of cross-linguistic synonyms.
Previous studies have demonstrated an effect of early vocal production on infants’ speech processing and later vocabulary. This study focuses on the relationship between vocal production and new word learning. Thirty monolingual Italian-learning infants were recorded at about 11 months, to establish the extent of their consonant production. In parallel, the infants were trained on novel word–object pairs, two consisting of early learned consonants (ELC), two consisting of late learned consonants (LLC). Word learning was assessed through Preferential Looking. The results suggest that vocal production supports word learning: Only children with higher, consistent consonant production attended more to the trained ELC images.
Infants learning languages with long consonants, or geminates, have been found to ‘overselect’ and ‘overproduce’ these consonants in early words and also to commonly omit the word-initial consonant. A production study with thirty Italian children recorded at 1;3 and 1;9 strongly confirmed both of these tendencies. To test the hypothesis that it is the salience of the medial geminate that detracts attention from the initial consonant we conducted three experiments with 11-month-old Italian infants. We first established baseline word-form recognition for untrained familiar trochaic disyllables and then tested for word-form recognition, separately for words with geminates and singletons, after changing the initial consonant to create nonwords from both familiar and rare forms. Familiar words with geminates were recognized despite the change, words with singletons were not. The findings indicate that a feature occurring later in the word affects initial consonant production and perception, which supports the whole-word phonology model.
The present study focuses on the characteristics of parental child-directed communication and its relationship with child language development. For this purpose, thirty-six toddlers (18 males and 18 females) and their parents were observed in a laboratory during triadic free play at ages 1 ; 3 and 1 ; 9. The characteristics of the maternal and paternal child-directed language (characteristics of communicative functions and lexicon as reported in psycholinguistic norms for Italian language) were coded during free play. Child language development was assessed during free play and at ages 2 ; 6 and 3 ; 0 using the Italian version of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (2 ; 6) and the revised Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-R) (3 ; 0). Data analysis indicated differences between mothers and fathers in the quantitative characteristics of communicative functions and language, such as the mean length of utterances (MLU), and the number of tokens and types. Mothers also produced the more frequent nouns in the child lexicon. There emerged a relation between the characteristics of parental child-directed language and child language development.
This study assesses the extent of phonetic continuity between babble and words in four Italian children followed longitudinally from 0 ; 9 or 0 ; 10 to 2 ; 0 – two with relatively rapid and two with slower lexical growth. Prelinguistic phonetic characteristics, including both (a) consistent use of specific consonants and (b) age of onset and extent of consonant variegation in babble, are found to predict rate of lexical advance and to relate to the form of the early words. In addition, each child's lexical profile is analyzed to test the hypothesis of non-linearity in phonological development. All of the children show the expected pattern of phonological advance: Relatively accurate first word production is followed by lexical expansion, characterized by a decrease in accuracy and an increase of similarity between word forms. We interpret such a profile as reflecting the emergence of word templates, a first step in phonological organization.
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