Bender (Center for Language Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen
Thursday, 3rd October, 2013, 12-1pm in AVLG17 (Aviation Building, Callaghan Campus).
How do babies learn language from the way we talk to them?
Babies learn about their native language by listening
to the speech that surrounds them. To understand how language-
learning happens in this situation, we must know: 1) what kind of
speech babies are confronted with and 2) what babies learn from
Babies hear a special type of speech, because most adults speak
differently to babies. It has been proposed that parents speak
to babies in a special register to express their positive affect
and to teach them the language. I will show more fine-grained
analyses of infant-directed speech, which reveal that all parents
do is express positive affect when they speak to their baby. I
will argue that earlier results that were interpreted as language
teaching, were actually happy speech in disguise.
Even though parents do not actively teach their baby language,
babies manage to learn language from what they hear. Listening
experiments provide evidence what babies learn about the language,
but cannot reveal how they learn it. I will illustrate that the
combination of analyses of language input, listening experiments
with babies, and computational modeling can bring us a long way
in answering the question of how babies use the speech that
surrounds them to learn their native language.