Is that a word? Finding words in Italian
Children aged 8-9 months
This study looked at how infants use patterns they hear in fluent speech to help them find individual words.
This study took place at the University of Liverpool. During the study, the child came into the lab and listen to some fluent Italian speech. Once they became familiar with this, we played sounds that were present in the speech they just heard, as well as sounds that were not. Using our eye-tracker we were able to see which words from the speech the child liked to listen to the most and see which patterns helped children to find words.
Our brilliant PhD student Heather's next steps will be to fully analyse the data and write up the findings into a paper. She wants to say a big thank you to all the families and little scientists who signed up and took part in the study. From an initial look, it seems that the babies were more interested in looking and listening when they heard words that were present in Italian speech (familiar words). This would suggest that even at this early age, infants can pick up on sounds which go together in speech and recognise them when they hear them again, even in an unfamiliar language.
Object and Word Learning
Children aged 9 months
This was an eye-tracking study, interested in how infants learn and remember different objects, and what helps them to then go on and learn the words for these different objects.
This study took place at the University of Liverpool. During the study, the child looked at the computer screen, while sat in a car seat or on a parent's lap. They saw pictures or videos of different objects either accompanied by sounds or in silence. We were interested in the child’s eye gaze abilities and measured what they looked at and how long for.
Thank you to all the families that took part in our object and word learning study over the past year. The first phase of the data collection is now complete, and it looks as if we have found more evidence that words are important to babies, especially when learning about objects. Labelling an object helps your little one’s object memory, because this helps babies 'encode' those objects, which means they are more likely to remember the objects later. We are about to start the next phase of this project and you should hopefully receive an update about this in the new year. In the meantime, you can learn about how important it is for your little one to develop object skills here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/tiny-happy-people/babies-discover-peekaboo/z7kxgwx
Finding words in speech
Children aged 16-18 months
When learning to talk, children need to be able to find the beginnings and ends of words from what they hear. When we write, the spaces between words are obvious and this makes the words easy to identify. But when we speak, the words blend into one another; spaces or pauses can even be in the middle of a word, making this an unreliable cue for children about where to find words in a continuous stream of speech.
As part of the Language 0-5 Project, we started a new study in January 2018 to look at which parts of speech children use to help them find the words in continuous speech. Children played with some toys with one of our researchers while we played some made up speech in the background.
They then watched a video on a TV screen. While the video played, the children heard two sets of made up words - one set were words from the speech they heard while they were playing and the other set were new, made up words.
Finding out which cues children use to break up the speech they are hearing will help us to understand the parts of language that are most important for children to be able to learn the words of their language.
Children aged 16-19 months and 12-15 months
April 2017 until 30th April 2018
Claire Noble and Samantha Durrant worked with some undergraduate students on this worldwide study, working with over 60 labs!
This was great opportunity for us to find out more about how language develops in young children from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures. This study involved two tasks and was ran here at the University of Liverpool. The first task investigated children’s preference for infant-directed over adult-directed speech, and the second looked at how children followed other people's eye movements. In addition to this, we were interested in learning whether there would be any differences in the way that monolingual and bilingual children performed on these tasks.
Children between 6 and 9 months, or 12 and 15 months old were invited to the university. They sat in a car seat and watched some images on the screen, which were either a checker board pattern or short videos of a woman looking at different objects. We also asked for some information about the language experience of the child. The results from this study tells us a lot about how children across the world approach the challenge of learning language and gave us further insight into the differences between children in different language environments.
Children aged 15-18 months
December 2017 until June 2018
The age at which children meet developmental milestones varies hugely. With language, we know that some children will start to talk very early and acquire this skill very quickly whilst for others, this might take a little longer (though many will have caught up by the age of 3 or 4).
Lana Jago, a PhD student here in Liverpool, is hoping to understand more about why children learn language at different rates and what this can tell us about children that learn to talk later.
Children aged 2-3 years
Children need to learn lots of different rules about words to be able to explain what they mean, tell us what happened, or tell us what they want. As adults, we use different word endings to convey this information and children need to learn how to do this too.
Charleen, a PhD student here at the University of Liverpool, is particularly interested in how and when children learn to put endings on verbs, like the –s on plays, or the –ed on played.
In this study, children looked at some pictures on a laptop screen with a member of the team. They played a game where they took turns to describe the pictures and won stickers for completing the sentences.
We wanted to find out why children who are later to learn language struggle with these word endings. We will then use this information to give schools and speech and language therapists tips and tricks to support children’s language development. The extra knowledge gained from this study will also help researchers to develop interventions.
The Language 0-5 Project
Children aged 0-5 years
September 2014 to September 2019
The Language 0-5 Project is the largest-scale study of children's language development in the UK. In December 2014, we began following 80 children from the age of 6
months of age to 4 and a half years to help us understand how babies and young children learn to talk and communicate with others.
By following children over a 4 year period, we hope to build a comprehensive picture of their language development from the very beginning right through to school. All of the families who are involved in the Language 0-5 Project take part in a range of activities.
They fill in some questionnaires and their children will take part in a number of language games! By looking at differences in the way each child’s language develops, we will be able to investigate why some children fall behind their peers by the time they start school – something that can have a major impact throughout their school years
and beyond. In the future, this will help us create targeted interventions with parents, health-care professionals and teachers to increase children’s language skills.
The Reading Together Project
Children aged 2.5-3 years
September 2016 until December 2017
The Reading Together Project was a randomised control trial of shared book
reading with children aged 2 ½ to 3 years. In this project, we want to find out why
reading with children is so good for their language development.
We know that reading with children helps them learn to talk, and it helps them do
well in school, but we don’t know why. We wanted find out what caregivers do and
say when reading with children so that we can find out how this helps children learn to talk.
All of the families involved in the project took part in two visits with one of our
team. One visit was at the start of the project and another 6 weeks later. In these
visits, we played language games with the children which involved looking at
pictures, listening to words and playing games with toys. We also asked the
families to fill in some questionnaires. In between the two visits, we gave each
family a set of story books and asked them to regularly read to their child at home.
We plan to use the results to give parents, nurseries and preschool teachers tips and tricks to help support children’s language development through reading.