Quick Summary:

Testing infants clearly poses a lot of problems, because babies can't really communicate yet, so we need to be really creative in order to work out what exactly they know. But it seems like it should be easier to work with older kids, who've already developed the ability to talk. And yet, it's not quite that easy. Kids don't have the same ability to think about why they're doing things, the same levels of patience, or the same general cognitive capabilities. So we have to design experimental techniques that are better fits for child acquisition levels.

Over the years, linguists have found a lot of different ways to address this problem, and we talk about two in the video. The first, the Act-Out Task, works by providing the kids with toys, and asking them to perform sentences that use whatever constructions you're interested in. This way, kids can show you directly what they can do with language. But producing things, even actions, is actually pretty hard, particularly when the sentences get more complicated. And when kids make mistakes in production, it might not be indicative of what they really know.

So we also look at their comprehension abilities, using techniques like the Truth Value Judgment Task. Here, kids are presented with a story acted out with puppets, and then hear a sentence that attempts to describe what's going on. The child then has to say whether it's a good description... which it usually isn't, because by getting the child to say no and explain what really happened, we can get a clear view of the state of their grammar. And these are just two ways we've come up with to look at what kids can do!

 

Extra Materials:

These will be added Thursday morning! We'll be talking about elicited production here.

 

Discussion:

So how about it? What do you all think? Let us know below, and we’ll be happy to talk with you about the different ways that we can look at what kids know about language. There’s a lot of interesting stuff to say, and we want to hear what interests you!

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