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The role of parental labeling in
early language development

Maritza S. Gomez
Undergraduate Student Researcher (Class of 2014)
Brain & Cognitive Sciences
Majors: Psychology, Linguistics
University of Rochester

2013 Sigma Xi Undergraduate
Research Showcase
March 18-23, 2013
Introduction

Background
Significance
Research questions
External linguistic input required
* Infants require external linguistic input to
  acquire their first languages
* Experienced language users provide infants
  with particular sounds, words, and
  grammatical rules for their target language
* Example: Word an infant will learn for “milk”
  depends upon the language environment
  (e.g., leche in Spanish,laitin French)
Parents as primary input providers
* Parental labeling
  behavior plays a
  very important role
  in children’s early
  language learning
* More parental
  language input
  thought to yield
  faster word learning
   (e.g., Hurtado et al. 2008, Fernald
   et al. 2006)
Previous studies of word learning
* Previous work focused on how infants solve
  mapping problem using distributional
  statistics
* Infants employ cross-situational statistics to
  rapidly learn word-object pairings
   (e.g., Smith & Yu, 2008; Yu & Smith, 2011)


* Input is typically thought of as a running
  stream of word- and object co-occurances
  that unfolds over time—independently of
  what the infant thinks or does
Proposed alternative possibility
* Parents could adjust what they say to
  their infants as a function of their
  infants’ changing knowledge states
* Could potentially give infants a boost
  in process of learning first language
* Parents could be providing learning
  material that is “just right” for efficient
  learning
Research questions
* Is parental language
  input dynamically
  related to the infant’s
  knowledge state?

* Are parents more
  likely to label objects
  for which their infants
  already have some
  existing knowledge?
Methods

Data collection
Analyses
Data collection
* Worked with
  research team to
  collect video data of
  infants and parents
  engaged in
  naturalistic play
* Head-mounted
  camera sets on
  infant and parent
  captured video
Volunteer subjects
* Parents with infants recruited
  from the Rochester, NY area

* Ages 12- to 15-
  months-old (M =
  13.4, N =12)
Data collection
* In each 3-minute trial, parent and infant
  provided with 4 to 8 toys
* Each toy set contained a mixture of both
  familiar objects (e.g., ball) and unfamiliar
  objects (e.g., lobster)
Labels and vocab surveys
* In each trial, parents naturally provided
  labels for toys in the scene
* Each label was recorded
* Vocabulary surveys also collected from
  parents after play sessions
* Surveys asked which words
  infants understood
* Two analyses conducted to
  test whether parents were
  more likely to use labels their
  infants understood
Study 1: Difference of
means
Difference-of-means test methods
t-test results
Study 1: Analysis
* Computed the mean number of labels a
  parents for two different object
  categories:
   Known—objects for which infant knew
   the label
   Unknown—objects for which infant did
   not know the label

* Significance of difference tested with
  Welch’s t-test (independent samples)
Study 1: Results
 Number of Labels Produced by Parent
                                       10




                                                         *    p< .05
                                       8
                                       6
                                       4
                                       2
                                       0




                                            Known                  Unknown
                                             Child's Knowledge of Labels
Study 1: Results and conclusions
* Plot shows parents use significantly more
  labels for objects that are known
  (familiar) to their infants than for those
  that are unknown (unfamiliar)
* But is this difference due to some factor
  other than infants’ knowledge
  (e.g., maybe the fact that older infants
  knew more labels drove the effect)?
* Second analysis controls for a number of
  relevant factors
Study 2: Generalized
linear mixed model
GLMM analysis methods
GLMM results
Study 2: Analysis
General linear mixed model to test whether
child’s knowledge of the label predicts
number of parental labels, controlling for:
* Age
* Total number of objects present in trial
* Total number of labels parent produced in
  trial
* Factor for random subject effects
Study 2: Results
Study 2: Results and conclusions
* Infants’ knowledge of the label was a
  significant predictor of the number of
  times a parent used that label
* Effect was significant, even controlling for
  other factors (e.g., infants’ age, number
  of objects present)
* Number of labeling events (control
  variable) was also significant; parents
  who produced lots of labels were more
  likely to produce a particular object label
Summary and future
directions
Summary
Discussion
Future directions
Summary and discussion
* Results evidence a dynamic relationship
  between parental labeling behavior and
  infant’s vocabulary knowledge
* Could either be the case that parents are
  more likely to use labels that infants
  understand, or it could be the case that
  infants are quicker to learn labels that
  parents use more often
* Future work in progress will disentangle
  two possible explanations for correlation
  reported here
Future directions
* Follow-up research will collect measures
  of parental productions and children’s
  vocabulary in the home
* This work will allow us to collect greater
  quantity of data at multiple time points
* Aim is to determine to what degree
  parents’ labeling behavior drives
  children’s lexical development
Potential impact of research
* Research aims to better understand what
  type of learning environments are most
  conducive to language learning
* Work will yield normative baselines for
  language development
* Baselines can be used to develop more
  effective language therapies for children
  with delayed language development
Acknowledgements
Thank you to:
* My research project advisors, Dr. Richard
  N. Aslin and Celeste Kidd
* Rochester Baby Lab research staff,
  especially lab manager Holly Palmeri and
  postdocs Dr. Steven T. Piantadosi and
  Dr. Lauren Emberson
* LocalLocal.tvfor video of infants in lab
* Volunteer parents and infants for
  participating in this research
Thank you.

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Maritza Gomez - Sigma Xi 2013 Virtual Research Expo

  • 1. The role of parental labeling in early language development Maritza S. Gomez Undergraduate Student Researcher (Class of 2014) Brain & Cognitive Sciences Majors: Psychology, Linguistics University of Rochester 2013 Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research Showcase March 18-23, 2013
  • 3. External linguistic input required * Infants require external linguistic input to acquire their first languages * Experienced language users provide infants with particular sounds, words, and grammatical rules for their target language * Example: Word an infant will learn for “milk” depends upon the language environment (e.g., leche in Spanish,laitin French)
  • 4. Parents as primary input providers * Parental labeling behavior plays a very important role in children’s early language learning * More parental language input thought to yield faster word learning (e.g., Hurtado et al. 2008, Fernald et al. 2006)
  • 5. Previous studies of word learning * Previous work focused on how infants solve mapping problem using distributional statistics * Infants employ cross-situational statistics to rapidly learn word-object pairings (e.g., Smith & Yu, 2008; Yu & Smith, 2011) * Input is typically thought of as a running stream of word- and object co-occurances that unfolds over time—independently of what the infant thinks or does
  • 6. Proposed alternative possibility * Parents could adjust what they say to their infants as a function of their infants’ changing knowledge states * Could potentially give infants a boost in process of learning first language * Parents could be providing learning material that is “just right” for efficient learning
  • 7. Research questions * Is parental language input dynamically related to the infant’s knowledge state? * Are parents more likely to label objects for which their infants already have some existing knowledge?
  • 9. Data collection * Worked with research team to collect video data of infants and parents engaged in naturalistic play * Head-mounted camera sets on infant and parent captured video
  • 10. Volunteer subjects * Parents with infants recruited from the Rochester, NY area * Ages 12- to 15- months-old (M = 13.4, N =12)
  • 11. Data collection * In each 3-minute trial, parent and infant provided with 4 to 8 toys * Each toy set contained a mixture of both familiar objects (e.g., ball) and unfamiliar objects (e.g., lobster)
  • 12. Labels and vocab surveys * In each trial, parents naturally provided labels for toys in the scene * Each label was recorded * Vocabulary surveys also collected from parents after play sessions * Surveys asked which words infants understood * Two analyses conducted to test whether parents were more likely to use labels their infants understood
  • 13. Study 1: Difference of means Difference-of-means test methods t-test results
  • 14. Study 1: Analysis * Computed the mean number of labels a parents for two different object categories: Known—objects for which infant knew the label Unknown—objects for which infant did not know the label * Significance of difference tested with Welch’s t-test (independent samples)
  • 15. Study 1: Results Number of Labels Produced by Parent 10 * p< .05 8 6 4 2 0 Known Unknown Child's Knowledge of Labels
  • 16. Study 1: Results and conclusions * Plot shows parents use significantly more labels for objects that are known (familiar) to their infants than for those that are unknown (unfamiliar) * But is this difference due to some factor other than infants’ knowledge (e.g., maybe the fact that older infants knew more labels drove the effect)? * Second analysis controls for a number of relevant factors
  • 17. Study 2: Generalized linear mixed model GLMM analysis methods GLMM results
  • 18. Study 2: Analysis General linear mixed model to test whether child’s knowledge of the label predicts number of parental labels, controlling for: * Age * Total number of objects present in trial * Total number of labels parent produced in trial * Factor for random subject effects
  • 20. Study 2: Results and conclusions * Infants’ knowledge of the label was a significant predictor of the number of times a parent used that label * Effect was significant, even controlling for other factors (e.g., infants’ age, number of objects present) * Number of labeling events (control variable) was also significant; parents who produced lots of labels were more likely to produce a particular object label
  • 22. Summary and discussion * Results evidence a dynamic relationship between parental labeling behavior and infant’s vocabulary knowledge * Could either be the case that parents are more likely to use labels that infants understand, or it could be the case that infants are quicker to learn labels that parents use more often * Future work in progress will disentangle two possible explanations for correlation reported here
  • 23. Future directions * Follow-up research will collect measures of parental productions and children’s vocabulary in the home * This work will allow us to collect greater quantity of data at multiple time points * Aim is to determine to what degree parents’ labeling behavior drives children’s lexical development
  • 24. Potential impact of research * Research aims to better understand what type of learning environments are most conducive to language learning * Work will yield normative baselines for language development * Baselines can be used to develop more effective language therapies for children with delayed language development
  • 25. Acknowledgements Thank you to: * My research project advisors, Dr. Richard N. Aslin and Celeste Kidd * Rochester Baby Lab research staff, especially lab manager Holly Palmeri and postdocs Dr. Steven T. Piantadosi and Dr. Lauren Emberson * LocalLocal.tvfor video of infants in lab * Volunteer parents and infants for participating in this research