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Acquisition and cognition 2007

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Comparison of processes in acquisition and evolution : from first syllables to the lexical spurt.


  Contact person
Sophie KERN

Scientific framework and objectives

This study is undertaken within the framework of frame/content theory (MacNeilage & Davis, 1999, 2000), which argues that universal articulatory tendencies in babbling are constrained by the biomechanics of production and that, with the appearance of first words, child adjust their productions to the ambient language. The principal objective of this project is to study early acquisition in order to understand, on the one hand, production processes used and on the other, to draw conclusions concerning motor and cognitive prerequisites to language development within a phylogenetic perspective. To obtain this objective we systematically compare babbling, first words and the lexical explosion in children acquiring typologically differing languages, Turkish, Romanian, Tunisian Arabic, French, Berber, Dutch and English. Data collection, which consists of bi-monthly audio and video recordings of mother/child dyads (children ranging in age from 8 to 24 months, 4 children per language), have been completed in spring 2005. All the vocalizations have been transcribed with API and entered into the LIPP program. Analyses of babbling show that there are universal motor constraints which influence production, and that typological characteristics of the languages play only a minor role on the segment types, inter- and intra-syllabic types and on the syllable structures produced by children. The examination of first words confirms this tendency: thus, data indicate continuity between the vocalizations produced during babbling and those from the first word period. Nevertheless, data reveal also an increase in the acquisition rate in most of the studied children when children present a repertoire of 50 different words, increase being frequently associated with a complexification and a diversification of the produced segments and structures.

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The principal objective of this project is to study early acquisition in order to understand, on the one hand, production processes used and on the other, to draw conclusions concerning motor and cognitive prerequisites to language development within a phylogenetic perspective. To obtain this objective we systematically compare babbling, first words and the lexical explosion in children acquiring typologically differing languages, Turkish, Romanian, Tunisian Arabic, French, Berber and Dutch.


  Financial support
  • OHLL (Origine de l’Homme, du Langage et des Langues)
    Comparison of processes in acquisition and evolution : from first syllables to the lexical spurt.
    CNRS
    2000-2004
  • OMLL (The Origin of Man, Language and Languages)
    Comparison of processes in acquisition and evolution : from first syllables to the lexical spurt.
    ESF
    2001-2006

  Publications
  • Davis, B., Kern, S., MacNeilage, P., Koçbas, D., Zink, I., 2005, "Vocalization Patterns in Canonical Babbling: A cross-Linguistic Perspective", Xth IASCL, Berlin, Allemagne, 25 au 29 juillet
  • Gayraud, F., Kern, S., 2006, "Phonetic complexity in typical and atypical French children", Child Language Seminar, Newcastle, 19-22 Juillet
  • Kern, S., Koçbas, D., Zink, I., 2004, "Influence of ambient language on babbling", proc. of OMLL conference, Leipzig, Allemagne, 4 au 6 avril
  • Kern, S., Gayraud, F., 2004, "Du remaniement des caractéristiques du lexique autour de 2 ans", Atelier Conjoncture: Acquisition du langage: vers une approche pluridisciplinaire, Strasbourg, France, 8 au 10 décembre
  • Kern, S., 2005, "Linguistic and cognitive development in infancy: A possible relationship between non verbal categorization abilities and lexical spurt", International Workshop: Processing of multimodal information in animals and humans, Vannes, France, 25 au 27 mai
  • Kern, S., 2005, "Universals and language specificities in canonical babbling", Workshop Phonological systems and complex adaptive systems, Lyon, France, 4 au 6 juillet
  • Kern, S., 2005, "Rôle de la langue maternelle sur les vocalisations enfantines au cours du babillage", Séminaire de l’Institut de la Communication Parlée, Grenoble, 20 octobre
  • Kern, S., Gayraud, F., 2006, "Effect of some endogenous and exogenous factors on early lexicon and morphosyntax in preterm and full-term French toddlers", Latsis, Early language development and disorders, Genève, Suisse, 26-28 Janvier
  • Kern, S., Turkay, F., 2006, "Influence cognitive générale et/ou langagière spécifique sur les premiers mots des enfants: étude pilote chez des enfants français et des enfants turcs", ARCO*2006, Bordeaux, 6-8 décembre
  • Kern, S., Turkay, F., 2007, "Influence cognitive générale et/ou langagière spécifique sur les premiers mots des enfants français et turcs", Deuxième colloque international d'AFLICO, Lille, 10-12 Mai
  • Kern, S., 2007, "Crosslinguistic comparison of canonical babbling", Séminaire de recherche, Université de Texas, Austin, USA, 21 février
  • Kern, S., Gayraud, F., 2007, "Influence of phonetic development on lexical selectivity in French early language acquisition", 52nd annual conference of the International Linguistic Association: The emergence of Language by the child and in the species, New-York, USA, 30 mars au 1 avril
  • Kern, S., Davis, B., 2009, "Emergent complexity in early vocal acquisition: Cross-linguistic comparisons of canonical babbling", in Approaches to phonological complexity, Pellegrino, F., Marsico, E., Chitoran, I., Coupé, C. (eds), Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 353-376
  • Turkay, F., Kern, S., 2007, "Türk ve Fransiz anneler tarafindan çocuga yönlendirilmis konusmadaki farkliliklar: ad/eylem kullanimina karsilastirmali bir bakis açisi", XXI. ulusal dilbilim kurultayi, Mersin, Turquie, 10-11 Mai
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