Monday, March 14, 2011

Baby Gaga

a view from one of the cameras
Deb Roy's longitudinal study of his own son's acquisition of language is the focus of this TED lecture. It's a clear explanation of how he went about gathering many hundreds of thousands of hours of data and some observations about what the data tells us about how his child's language developed over three years, particularly the social dimensions of interaction and acquisition. The idea of feedback cycles - caregiver speech and child's speech working together in an ongoing process of acquisition and influence - is a key point from the lecture.

One particular case study is his son's movement from gaga to water (from about 5 minutes in). The "wordscapes" created from the data are pretty amazing to look at and the tagging of particular words is a particularly fascinating way of mapping language to events. So, for example, Roy and his team have mapped the child's use of words to where he and other family members were in the house and who they were talking with. Here's the wordscape for water:

"water" wordscape, with peaks in the kitchen

You can also read more about the study in this pdf.

What's also interesting, as the lecture goes on, is Roy's team's application of this model to patterns of language usage beyond his own son and house and into the wider world, where mapping of language is linked very closely to national media events.

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