Small children learn language faster than teenagers or adults. One explanation for this learning advantage comes not from differences between children & adults, but from the differences within the way that people talk to children & adults.
For the 1st time, a team of researchers developed a way to experimentally evaluate how parents use what they know about–their children’s language when they talk to-them. They found that parents have extremely correct models of their children’s language knowledge, and use these models to tune the language they use when talking or speaking with them. The results are available in an advance online publication of the journal of psychology .
“We have known for years that parents talk with their children differently than to other adults in many of the way , for instance simplifying their speech, reduplicating words and stretching out vowel sounds,” said Daniel Yurovsky, professor in psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. “This stuff helps young kids get a toehold into language, but we didn’t whether parents change the way they talk as children are acquiring language, giving children language input that’s ‘just right’ for learning subsequent thing.”
Adults tend to talk to children more slowly and at a better pitch. They also use more exaggerated enunciation, repetition and simplified language structure. Adults also pepper their communication with ques. to gauge the child’s comprehension. Because the child’s language fluency increases, sentence form & complexity employed by adults increases.
Yurovsky likens this to the progression a student follows when learning math in school class .
“When you attend school, you begin with algebra then take geometry before moving onto calculus,” said Yurovsky. “People talk with kids using same quite of structure. they’re tracking what proportion their child knows about language and modifying how they speak in order that for children’ understand them.”
Yurovsky and his team sought to know exactly how caregivers tune their interactions to match their child’s speech development. The team developed a game where parents helped their children to select a specific animal from a group of three, a game that toddlers (aged 15 to 23 months) and their parents play routinely in their daily lives. half the animals within the matching game were animals that children typically learn before age 2 (e.g. cat, cow), and therefore the 1/2 were animals that are typically learned later (e.g. peacock, leopard).
The researchers asked 41 child-adult pairs to play this game in naturalistic setting within the laboratory. They measured the differences in how parents talked about animals they thought their children knew as compared to those they thought their children didn’t know.
“Parents have an incredibly precise knowledge of their child’s language because they witnessed them grow and learn,” said Yurovsky. “These results show that parents leverage their knowledge of their children’s language development to fine-tune linguistic information they supply .”
The researchers found that the caregiver used a spread of techniques to convey the ‘unknown’ animal to the kid . the foremost common approach was to use additional descriptors familiar to the kid .
“This [research] approach lets us confirm experimentally ideas that we’ve developed observations based-on how kid and parents engage within the home,” said Yurovsky. “We found that parents not only used what they already knew about their children’s language knowledge before the study, but also that if they acknowledged they wrong — their child didn’t actually know ‘leopard’ for instance — they changed the way they talked about those animal next-time around.”
The study consisted of 36 experimental trials where each animal appeared as a target a minimum of twice within the game. The participants represented a racial composition almost like the US (56% white, 27% Black, & 8% Hispanic).
The results reflect a western parenting perspective also as caregivers with a better educational background than is representative within the country. The researchers didn’t independently measure the children’s knowledge of every animal. The results of this study cannot differentiate whether the youngsters learned any new animals while playing the sport .
Yurovsky believes the results may have some relevance for researchers working within the field of machine learning.
“These results could help us understand the way to believe machine learning language systems,” he said. “Right now we train language models by giving all of them of the language data we will get our hands on all at one time. But we’d do better if we could give them the proper data at the proper time, keeping it at just the proper level of complexity that they’re ready for.”
The research were published on Psychological Science.