Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search

 


Babies can detect language differences

6th January 2013

Babies can detect language differences, understanding that people who speak different languages use words differently.

In a recent study at the University of Auckland, infants noticed that speakers did not share a language and did not generalise the rules of one language to another.

Infants as young as 13 months old understand that people from different linguistic communities use different words to refer to the same object, according to the new study published in the journal, Developmental Psychology by Jessica Scott and Dr. Annette Henderson from the University of Auckland.

“By that age, infants understand that people who speak different languages do not use the same words in the same way,” says Dr Henderson from the University’s Early Learning Laboratory. “This is the first evidence that infants do not indiscriminately generalise words across people.”

“This early appreciation might help infants by encouraging them to focus on learning the words that will most likely be shared by members of their own linguistic group,” she says.
“They understand that object labels (word meanings) have shared meanings among speakers of the same language.”

In this study, the authors explored whether infants understand that word meanings are not shared by individuals who speak a different language.

To test this, infants from English-speaking families in Auckland were first shown video clips that introduced them to two actors speaking a different language; one actor sang popular French nursery rhymes and the other sang popular English nursery rhymes.

Infants were then repeatedly shown a video clip of a French speaker picking up one out of two objects that infants had not seen before, and giving it a novel label (i.e., “medo”).

Since infants look longer at things they find novel, or unexpected, two critical test events were designed to investigate the research question.

In one test event, infants saw the same French speaker pick up the same object and label it “medo”; in another test event, infants saw the French speaker pick up the object that had not previously been labelled and label this “medo”.

In line with previous research, infants looked longer when the French speaker referred to the unlabelled object as “medo”.

“This suggests that infants apply the rules they have learned of their own language and expect speakers of foreign languages to label objects consistently,” says Dr Henderson. “Infants do not expect to hear the French speaker use the same label for two different objects.”

Notably, when infants were shown critical test events of an English speaker using the same label for the same objects as the French speaker had (i.e., the object previously labelled “medo” and the unlabelled object) there was no significant difference in infants’ looking times towards both objects.

“This finding shows that infants appreciate that words are not shared by speakers of different languages, suggesting that infants have a fairly nuanced understanding of the conventional nature of language,” she says.

“People often think that babies absorb language and you don’t have to teach them, (and they do absorb it and they learn very passively), but they’re not just learning willy-nilly, they’re being smart and making distinctions about the words they hear and use,” says Dr Henderson.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 

Cyclists Net First NZ Gold

New Zealand won a gold meal and two bronzes on the first day of the Commonwealth Games. There was joy and heartbreak in an incredibly full day of sport. Here's how the New Zealanders fared. More>>

Cap Bocage: Anti-Mining Campaign Doco Debuts At NZ Film Festival

Playing at this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival, Cap Bocage is a close-up exploration of the forces that came into play when environmental issues and indigenous rights became intertwined in New Caledonia ... More>>

Film Fest:

More Film:

Sharon Ellis Review: A View From The Bridge

Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge is Circa’s latest big production, it opened on Saturday 19 July and it is a stunning triumph. More>>

Māori Language Week: He Karanga Kia Kaha Ake Te Tīhau Ki Te Reo Māori

The Māori Language Commission wishes to see social media swamped with Māori language tweets and messages for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori using the hashtag #tekupu. More>>

ALSO:

Book Vote: Kiwis Prefer Young Adult & Classics

To compile their Top 100 List for 2014, Whitcoulls again asked New Zealanders to vote for their favourite books and authors. And while classic novels continue to appeal to Kiwi readers, 2014 marks a significant new trend – the increasing popularity of novels for young adults. More>>

ALSO:

Five NZ Cities: Bill Bailey Back To The Southern Hemisphere

The gap between how we imagine our lives to be and how they really are is the subject of Bill’s new show Limboland. With his trademark intelligence and sharp wit, he tells tales of finding himself in this halfway place. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: Book Television Is Coming

Carole Beu of The Women’s Bookshop in Auckland, Graham Beattie of The Book Blog and producer Deb Faith of FaceTV have raised enough money via crowd funding at Boosted – just under $7,000 so far – for 12 episodes, which begin production in September, and will be on screen later that month. More>>

Electric Sheep: Light Nelson Exceeds All Expectations

Light Nelson exceeded all expectations drawing over 40,000 people over two nights to the Queens Gardens and surrounds. The event, with over 40 installations from local and national artists, is in its second year, and organisers were hoping they’d top last year’s crowd of 16,000. More>>

MacGyver: Richard Dean Anderson To Attend Armageddon This October

New Zealand’s biggest pulp-culture event, the Armageddon Expo is proud to announce the world’s most recognised DIY action hero will be attending the Auckland event at the ASB Showgrounds from October 24th to 27th. More>>

ALSO:

Barbershop Gold: Māori Party Singing Praises Of The Musical Island Boys

The Maori Party has congratulated four young men on a mission, who in 2002 took up barbershop singing at Tawa College, and tonight took out the Gold Medal in the 2014 International Barbershop Harmony Society competitions in Las Vegas. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
Education
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news