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 Do microplastics harbour additional risks by colonization with harmful bacteria?
05.04.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

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: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>