How does playing with other children affect toddlers' language learning?

July 10, 2019

Toddlers are surprisingly good at processing the speech of other young children, according to a new study. And toddlers who have more exposure to other children, such as those in daycare, may be particularly good at certain word learning skills.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo examined the word processing skills of toddlers who spend most of their time with adults compared with those who have more exposure to groups of children. They focused on how well the toddlers understood the speech of other children.

Although all of the toddlers were very good at processing child speech, the study found that toddlers who had more exposure to other children were better at associating a new word to a new object, an important part of word learning.

Child speech differs from adult speech in many ways. Even a child who is six or seven years old pronounces words a bit differently than adults. "We wanted to know if more exposure hearing other children speak would affect toddlers' ability to process child speech," said Katherine White, professor of psychology at Waterloo, who co-authored the study with PhD candidate, Dana Bernier.

In the study, the researchers conducted two experiments with a total of 88 toddlers (and their parents), some of whom spent eight hours or less per week with other children, and others who had more weekly experience in child groups.

Experiment 1 compared their processing of instructions from a seven-year-old child speaker and from an adult speaker pronouncing a familiar or novel object's name in the standard way. Experiment 2 tested the sensitivity of the toddlers' speech processing by having the child speaker mispronounce the object names.

"Our study demonstrates that toddlers are extremely good at processing the speech of young children, and that this is true even for toddlers who do not have a lot of experience with other children. This means that they could use this kind of speech, in addition to adult speech, to learn about their native language(s)," said White.

"However, we also found an intriguing difference in how toddlers processed new words that was related to how much exposure they had to other children."

"Most studies focus on how toddlers learn from adult speakers. But we think it's important to explore how toddlers process the speech of children of various ages and how much they use speech from other children to guide their language learning," said White.
-end-
The study, Toddlers' sensitivity to phonetic detail in child speech, by Dana Bernier and Katherine White, appears in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

University of Waterloo

Related Speech Articles from Brightsurf:

How speech propels pathogens
Speech and singing spread saliva droplets, a phenomenon that has attracted much attention in the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

How everyday speech could transmit viral droplets
High-speed imaging of an individual producing common speech sounds shows that the sudden burst of airflow produced from the articulation of consonants like /p/ or /b/ carry salivary and mucus droplets for at least a meter in front of a speaker.

Speech processing hierarchy in the dog brain
Dog brains, just as human brains, process speech hierarchically: intonations at lower, word meanings at higher stages, according to a new study by Hungarian researchers.

Computational model decodes speech by predicting it
UNIGE scientists developed a neuro-computer model which helps explain how the brain identifies syllables in natural speech.

Variability in natural speech is challenging for the dyslexic brain
A new study brings neural-level evidence that the continuous variation in natural speech makes the discrimination of phonemes challenging for adults suffering from developmental reading-deficit dyslexia.

How the brain controls our speech
Speaking requires both sides of the brain. Each hemisphere takes over a part of the complex task of forming sounds, modulating the voice and monitoring what has been said.

How important is speech in transmitting coronavirus?
Normal speech by individuals who are asymptomatic but infected with coronavirus may produce enough aerosolized particles to transmit the infection, according to aerosol scientists at UC Davis.

Using a cappella to explain speech and music specialization
Speech and music are two fundamentally human activities that are decoded in different brain hemispheres.

Speech could be older than we thought
The theory of the 'descended larynx' has stated that before speech can emerge, the larynx must be in a low position to produce differentiated vowels.

How the brain detects the rhythms of speech
Neuroscientists at UC San Francisco have discovered how the listening brain scans speech to break it down into syllables.

Read More: Speech News and Speech Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.