EXPERIMENTAL PARADIGMS IN DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLINGUISTICS Zsuzsanna Schnell Ph. D. student Institute of Psychology University of Pécs Language acquisition journey that begins in the womb and continues throughout childhood, early adulthood and even beyond. past: acquisition literature situated the onset of lg at about 12 months – when 1st recognizable words are produced - hence focus on production BUT new methods: LA starts with PROCESSING paves the way, fetus eavesdropping -> prosody, intonation of mother tongue -> segmentation of speech stream, familiarizing with mother’s voice and mother tongue (Karmiloff-Smith – Karmiloff 2002). Findings of modern psycholinguistic experiments what the child understands is much more indicative of their stage in LA they actually have a knowledge that is not displayed in their utterances (espec. late starters age 3) same is true for L2 learners. bias for production: behaviorist views 1960’s Chomsky’s views revolutionarized psycholing. research focus shifted from production to comprehension Typology Distinction based on: 1. Sample: Longitudinal vs. Cross sectional 2. Method: Observation based (diaries, Experimental questionnaires) vs. 3. Temporal aspect: Pre-natal vs. Post natal 4. Linguistic behavior: Pre-verbal vs. Verbal Research methods in the study of language development Diaries and parental reports: as early as 18th century – own children, diaries. remain a valuable source, !: misleading: tempted to write down unusual, or interesting, and not the ordinary but relevant. new version: McArthur Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) by Larry Fenson et al. checklist prepared by psycholinguists distributed to parents has been validated in laboratory settings. Advantages vs. Disadvantages ADVANTAGES: natural setting, family context fast, no funding needed no training required DISADVANTAGES: not suitable for older children, whose lg use is more complex may be misleading ALL IN ALL: If used correctly, the home- based parental questionnaire is a reliable indicator Observational data first motivation: reconcile allegations of revolutionary nativism: UG, LAD first: tape recordings transcripts. Roger Brown 1960-ies, Harvard: longitudinal study, studying the lg dev. of Adam, Eve and Sarah. transcripts fostered our understading of child grammar, acq. of basic sentence structures still a major research design Advantages vs. disadvantages ADVANTAGES: Observation allows indirect scrutiny, metalinguistic competence is not a must. rich source of data. focus on environmental factors and on influence of socialization (effect of parental input). DISADVANTAGES: longitudinal studies are - confined to a small n. of children (luckily results are representative of all children) !:transcripts may not include all situational factors, social and contextual effects - Difficulties arise from individual encoding – devising their own system, rendering it unusable for others. CHILDES – The Child Language Data Exchange System http://childes.psy.cmu.edu unified approach standardization in research methods, of recording and analyzing data on child language production. 1980’s: Brian MacWhinney and Catherine Snow proposed setting up a computerised data-base that would be available for the entire academic community. CHILDES http://childes.psy.cmu.edu the database can be accessed worldwide, to which relevant material can be contributed in a standard format. today contains data from 22 lgs on both first LA and second lg learning from normally and from atipically developing children from early mother-child dialogues to lengthy narratives, monologues prosody, stress, pause patterns, metalinguistic fators. Allows initial assessment of hypotheses. Longitudinal vs. Cross- sectional studies Cross sectional studies: gather groups of children to assess their abilities compare performance of groups. ADVANTAGES: allows to obtain a great deal of data in a short time, large samples yield results that can be generalized. Cross Sectional or Longtiud. studies can be either Observational or Experimental. Observational studies The researcher tries not to interfere with the subject’s natural use of lg. a.) Naturalistic O.S. - focus on real-life situations linguistic socialization, env. factors shaping LA b.) Controlled O. S. – laboratory setting and props are the same for all subjects (puppets). Experimental studies Do involve interference from the part of the researcher. WUG test - Jean Berko Gleason ’50-ies – Elicited Production experiment Using Nonce Words. m.i.: when prompted by the linguistic context in which the term appears, children will transform these so as to obey the grammatical rules. picture shown and is told it is called a „wug”. Then subject is shown another „wug” and told: „So now there are 2 of them.” And asked: „Now I have two…?” Expected answer: „wugS”. 2. Every day I „gorp”. Just like every day, yesterday I……….? „GORPED”. Observational vs. Experimental studies OS: we do not know for sure if plural marker „s” is consciously put there, or blind imitation ES: semi-controlled setting, eliciting the plural marker RULE application true status of grammatical markers DISADVANTAGE of ES: Rigidly controlled settings may mean difficulties, such demands of the experimental task may distort validity and reliability of results. It is therefore important to verify that such patterns are present in natural speech. PREVERBAL I. Pre-natal Studies of speech perception Prenatal (fetal): from 6th month of gestation method: microphone placed outside the womb, measure modifications in: a.) Cardiac acceleration/deceleration: festus shows sensitivity to changes in lgic stimuli (habituation) b.) Fetal movement (kicking rate) corresponds to changes in stimuli (US) PREVERBAL II. Post-Natal Studies of speech perception HASP: High Amplitude Sucking Paradigm ?: categorical perception of infants capitalizes on natural sucking instinct using sucking rate as measure of interest habituation / dehabituation paradigm If baby starts sucking vigorously can /continue to decline can/’t discriminate sounds / m’s voice …with older children Conditioned head-turn paradigm (Polka, Jusczyk, Rvachew 1995) - with infants 6-18 months of age -a stimulus sound is presented repeatedly - Whenever there is a change in a stimulus, an electric toy (to the side of the child’s line of vision. ) is lit up and activated. Eventually the child learns to anticipate that sound changes provoke a visual display, and they will turn their head to look for it when hearing a sound change. methods for studying comprehension …beyond speech (sound) perception preferential looking paradigm (Hirsh-Pasek – Golinkoff 1996). capitalizes on differential looking behavior when given a choice from 2 displays child grammar: passive voice lexicon: pictures of objects, animals (nouns) m.i.: child will look longer in the direction of the named object if they understand the word / construction. if neither object corresponds to the experimenter’s label, then they will look at both stimuli for eqivalent periods of time. the same holds if the baby does not know the word. …in the verbal stages elicited response, interviews (monologue, retelling an adventure>5 yrs). Off-line techniques measure comprehension by getting children a.) perform an action (act out) b.) retell the event after hearing a linguistic stimulus c.) picture pointing – subject is asked to point to the pic. that depicts the action in the experimenter’s utterance. The dog pushes the cow vs. The cow is pushed by the dog (active vs. passive) DISADVANTAGE: experimenter influences answers (multiple choice) - involves conscious decisions and reflections by the child (performance limitations) (metalinguistic competence.) On-line techniques I. - measure language processing as it occurs in real time. - e.g.: distinction between transitive vs. intransitive verbs. - I. Task: to listen for a particular word, e.g. „DOG”. - The subject is asked to push a button as soon as they hear the target word. - a.) The boy was out on a walk and he watched a DOG passing by. - b.) The boy was out on a walk and he watched to*a DOG passing by. - If they are sensitive to in-/transitive distinction, it will take longer to react in the erroneous case (watched to* a DOG…) - because the processing of ungrammatical structures will take longer if they have already acquired the correct grammatical rule. On-line techniques II. - Non-invasive brain imaging studies: HD Event Related Potential (ERP) Studies measuring electric activity in brain areas. - Eye-tracking experiments (head-mounted and remote eye-tracking systems) (syntactic parsing, topicality, idiom research looking time – segmentation correlation). - Reaction-time techniques: computers measure reaction time in milliseconds. Time correlates with parsing difficulties (gaden-path sentences). Advantages vs. Disadvantages of on-line methods - ADVANTAGES: - fast, accurate, - reveals fine-grained differences in performance, - memory is not overburdened, does not require reflection, since it is unconscious. - reveal competence off-line don’t (focus on comprehension) - online: investigates the interaction between competence and performance factors. - DISADVANTAGES: - difficult to design, - fallible, detail sensitive. Conclusions Innovative Experimental techniques counterbalance the limitations of a purely observational research Passive is more Processing paves the way Experimentally gained data needs to be complemented by observations of natural linguistic performance (social factors). Thank you for your attention! Literature: Gleason, J. B. - Ratner, N. B. (1998). Psycholinguistics. Harcourt Brace College Publishers. Orlando, FL. Karmiloff-Smith, A. – Karmiloff, K. (2002). Pathways to Language. Harvard University Press. Sowden, H. (2008). Developmental Psycholinguistics. On-line methods in children’s language processing. Language acquisition and language disorders series. John Benjamins, Amsterdam.
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