Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Understanding how infants acquire new words across cultures

30.09.2013
Research provides new evidence of how infants acquiring Korean learn new words

Infants show strong universals as they acquire their native language, but a recent study with infants acquiring Korean also reveals that there are striking language differences.

Sandra Waxman, Louis W. Menk Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University, is senior author of a new study providing the first ever evidence comparing how infants (monolingual, from Korea) acquiring Korean learn new nouns and verbs.

Researchers have long suggested that in "noun friendly" languages including English, infants' attention is focused primarily on objects, typically marked by nouns. In "verb friendly" languages including Korean, Japanese and Hindi, verbs are said to enjoy a more privileged status because infants' attention is focused more directly on the actions and relations typically marked by verbs.

"Almost all of the research on infants acquiring these "verb-friendly" languages has looked at the nouns and verbs that they produce in their daily lives," said Sudha Arunachalam, lead author of the study and assistant professor of speech and hearing sciences at Boston University.

"By using an experimental method instead, our approach lets us watch infants acquire new words, so we can get real insight into the mental processes that are at work during learning."

Waxman said their new work shows strong universals in language acquisition, but also shows some real cross-linguistic differences.

"Like infants acquiring other languages, Korean infants very successfully learn nouns to name objects such as ball, bottle and boy," Waxman said. "However, when it comes to learning verbs -- names for activities and relations -- like running, hugging, twirling, we see differences across languages."

Previous research had shown that in English, 24-month-old infants were better able to learn novel verbs for novel actions (e.g., petting) if the surrounding noun phrases were explicitly mentioned (e.g., "The girl is petting the dog") than if they were dropped from the sentence (e.g., "Look. Petting!"). In contrast, the new research shows that in Korean (a language in which noun phrases are typically dropped in conversation) 24-month-olds were better able to learn novel verbs for novel actions if the surrounding noun phrases (e.g., the girl, the dog) were dropped; in fact, unlike English-acquiring infants, those acquiring Korean struggled if the nouns were explicitly mentioned.

"We know that even before infants begin to say many verbs, they begin to understand them," Waxman said. "What this new research tells us is that the information that infants need to 'get' that understanding varies, depending upon the native language they are learning. This piece of the language acquisition process is not universal; instead, it is 'language-specific.'

"Even in the early stages of language learning, infants are shaped by the structure of their native language, so much so that the way they learn verbs is influenced by the way they've been hearing verbs in the ambient language, even before they could understand them. This means that like early speech and music perception, the structure of what infants passively hear influences how they actively learn," Waxman said.

In addition to Waxman and Arunachalam, co-authors include Erin M. Leddon of Northwestern; and Hyun-joo Song and Yoonha Lee of Yonsei University. The article "Verb Learning in Korean: Doing more with less: Verb learning in Korean-acquiring 24-month-olds" appeared online in the September 23 issue of Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>