Mapping the Word

I watched an interesting Ted talk in which cognitive scientist and MIT researcher Deb Roy explains how he wired his house with video cameras to capture the rich details of his son’s language development. A complex motion analysis was applied to the 90,000 hours of video to map out how his son’s social interactions within different domains of the home informed his language development. Roy describes how the analysis revealed the scaffolding of language learning:

“Every time my son would learn a word, we would trace back and look at all of the language he heard that contained that word…And what we found was this curious phenomena, that caregiver speech would systematically dip to a minimum, making language as simple as possible, and then slowly ascend back up in complexity. And the amazing thing was that bounce, that dip, lined up almost precisely with when each word was born — word after word, systematically. So it appears that all three primary caregivers — myself, my wife and our nanny — were systematically and, I would think, subconsciously restructuring our language to meet him at the birth of a word and bring him gently into more complex language. And the implications of this — there are many, but one I just want to point out, is that there must be amazing feedback loops. Of course, my son is learning from his linguistic environment, but the environment is learning from him. That environment, people, are in these tight feedback loops and creating a kind of scaffolding.”

Link to the Ted Talk:

www.ted.com/talks/deb_roy_the_birth_of_a_word

Deb Roy

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