Why Segmentation Matters: Experience-Driven Segmentation Errors Impair “Morpheme” Learning – New paper out in JEP:LMC

I’m happy to announce a new paper just out on-line in JEP:LMC entitled “Why Segmentation Matters: Experience-Driven Segmentation Errors Impair
“Morpheme” Learning
“, by Amy Finn and Carla Hudson Kam.* (Warning: it’s not open access.)

Here’s the abstract: “We ask whether an adult learner’s knowledge of their native language impedes statistical learning in a new language beyond just word segmentation (as previously shown). In particular, we examine the impact of native-language word-form phonotactics on learners’ ability to segment words into their component morphemes and learn phonologically triggered variation of morphemes. We find that learning is impaired when words and component morphemes are structured to conflict with a learner’s native language phonotactic system, but not when native-language phonotactics do not conflict with morpheme boundaries in the artificial language. A learner’s native-language knowledge can therefore have a cascading impact affecting word segmentation and the morphological variation that relies upon proper segmentation. These results show that getting word segmentation right early in learning is deeply important for learning other aspects of language, even those (morphology) that are known to pose a great
difficulty for adult language learners.”

(Finn, A. S., & Hudson Kam, C. L. (2015, March 2). Why Segmentation Matters: Experience-Driven Segmentation Errors Impair “Morpheme” Learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000114)

*2015 is getting off to a pretty great start, and everyone in the lab is happy about that, but it’s worth keeping in mind that both papers out so far this year are work that’s been in progress for a very long time.

One more push on our internet survey on book reading – and some news (hint: it’s about data sharing)

I’m going to try one more big push for responses to our study on children’s bookreading. For those of you who don’t know (or have forgotten), I’m conducting a study in collaboration with Lisa Matthewson on aspects of children’s books. But before we can examine the books, we want to know which books children are being read most often. It turns out that although there is a large literature on book reading, mostly focused on what kinds of books or book reading practices seem to be related to various aspects of development (often linguistic but not always), most analyses either don’t rest on the specifics of the books or the analyzed books are chosen based on things like sales records. And much of the literature focuses on children who are older than the age we are most interested in. For all of these reasons, we decided to start by collecting information on the books children aged 0-36 months are being read most often. We are doing this via an internet survey that asks parents and caregivers some questions about the books they are reading most often to their children (in English). We have about 700 responses so far, but would like to get it to over 1000 if we can.

If you can help us get this survey out to more people, by posting it on your facebook page, tweeting a link, etc., we’d really appreciate your help. And in some exciting news, we just got permission to share the eventual data set (which does not include any identifying information about participants, so respondents don’t need to worry about anyone knowing who they are). If you are someone who is interested in children’s books, just think about how more data will be better for you too! So if you know parents of children aged 0-36 months who read books in English to their children, or have a way to get this survey out to some, any and all help is appreciated. There are no restrictions on country, monolingual vs. multilingual, or anything like that. Here’s a link to the invitation page.

Thanks for any and all help getting this out one last time.

Parents of children aged 0-36 months needed for internet survey on children’s books in English

The Language and Learning Lab at the University of British Columbia is looking for parents of children aged 0-36 months of age to participate in an internet survey regarding book reading. The survey takes approximately 10-15 minutes. If you are interested in participating, please click here.

(Feel free to pass this message along to parent friends.)

“Children’s Use of Gesture in Ambiguous Pronoun Interpretation” – New (OA) paper out in Journal of Child Language

I’m happy to announce a new paper “Children’s Use of Gesture in Ambiguous Pronoun Interpretation” just out in the Journal of Child Language by Whitney Goodrich Smith and Carla Hudson Kam. FYI: It’s published as an open access paper.

Here’s the abstract:

“This study explores whether children can use gesture to inform their interpretation of ambiguous pronouns. Specifically, we ask whether four- to eight-year-old English-speaking children are sensitive to information contained in co-referential localizing gestures in video narrations. The data show that the older (7–8 years of age) but not younger (4–5 years) children integrate co-referential gestures into their interpretation of pronouns. This is the same age at which they show sensitivity to order-of-mention, the only other cue available in the stimuli. Interestingly, when children show sensitivity to the gestures, they are quite similar to adults, in that gestures consistent with order-of-mention increase first-mentioned responses as compared to stimuli with no gestures, but only slightly, while gestures inconsistent with order-of-mention have a larger effect on interpretation, decreasing first-mentioned responses and increasing second-mentioned responses.”

“Adult learners’ (non-)acquisition of speaker-specific variation” C Hudson Kam’s poster at Variation in Language Acquisition 2014

I will be presenting the poster “Adult learners’ (non-)acquisition of speaker-specific variation” at the second meeting of Variation in Language Acquisition. The meeting’s taking place in Grenoble, France, December 3-5, 2014. (I’m posting this from the airport after being rebooked once due to a pilot strike, so let’s hope I’ll be presenting the poster.)

BU Poster: Learning phonetic categories with phonotactics: the influence of predictability and phonetic naturalness

The lab is back at BUCLD! The conference, as always, looks really great, and I (Carla) am sorry to have to miss it. But PhD student Masaki Noguchi will be there presenting our poster entitled “Learning phonetic categories with phonotactics: the influence of predictability and phonetic naturalness” during the Friday Poster session. The attended session is Friday, November 7, at 3 pm. Pop by the poster to hear about his dissertation research. Or you can always email us for a copy.

2 Posters at LabPhon 14

It’s a busy week for the Language and Learning Lab. In addition to the paper that just came out, we have some ongoing work being presented at LabPhon 14 in Tokyo. The first is on Friday, July 25, in Poster Session 1. It’s P1-11 “Learning sound categories with phonotactics” by M. Noguchi and C. Hudson Kam. The second is on Sunday, July 27, in Poster Session 3. It’s P3-28 “Phonotactic learning and its interaction with speech segmentation” by A. Black and M. Noguchi. Phd student Masaki Noguchi is presenting both of them. Stop by and check them out if you’re there. If not, just email for a copy.

When It Hurts (and Helps) to Try: The Role of Effort in Language Learning – New paper out in PLOS ONE

I am so happy to be able to announce the publication of “When It Hurts (and Helps) to Try: The Role of Effort in Language Learning“, just out in PLOS ONE. This is another piece by former student Amy Finn, PhD, currently a post doc at MIT.

Here’s the abstract:
Compared to children, adults are bad at learning language. This is counterintuitive; adults outperform children on most measures of cognition, especially those that involve effort (which continue to mature into early adulthood). The present study asks whether these mature effortful abilities interfere with language learning in adults and further, whether interference occurs equally for aspects of language that adults are good (word-segmentation) versus bad (grammar) at learning. Learners were exposed to an artificial language comprised of statistically defined words that belong to phonologically defined categories (grammar). Exposure occurred under passive or effortful conditions. Passive learners were told to listen while effortful learners were instructed to try to 1) learn the words, 2) learn the categories, or 3) learn the category-order. Effortful learners showed an advantage for learning words while passive learners showed an advantage for learning the categories. Effort can therefore hurt the learning of categories.

Thanks to PLOS ONE for a great experience. Thanks also to Michael Ramscar, who gave very thoughtful and helpful commentary along the way. (He served as a reviewer, more than once. And no, it’s not a case of conflict of interest. He signs his reviews.)

Open Access publication.

Fuzzy memories? Developmental differences in the stability of statistically-extracted representations – Poster by Alexis Black, Janet Werker, and Carla Hudson Kam at ISIS 2014

For those of you heading off to Berlin for ISIS 2014, check out poster 3-028 in Poster Session 10. It’s on Saturday from 3:30-5 pm. “Fuzzy memories? Developmental differences in the stability of statistically-extracted representations” is the title of the poster, featuring Alexis Black‘s dissertation work. It looks at developmental differences in statistical learning, comparing infants with adults, looking especially at the robustness of resulting knowledge. If you’re interested, check out the poster, or email her.

LabPhon14 schedule is out, and we’re in it!

The schedule for LabPhon14 in Tokyo is out, and the lab has two posters being presented there.

The first P1-11 Learning sound categories with phonotactics by Masaki Noguchi and Carla Hudson Kam on Friday July 23rd in Poster Session 1 (14:30-16:20).

The second is P3-29 Phonotactic learning and its interaction with speech segmentation by Alexis Black and Masaki Noguchi on Sunday July 27th in Poster Session 3 (13:10-15:00).

Here’s a link to the book of abstracts.