June 15, 2013 3:21:38 pm
Toddlers’ speech is far more advanced than previously believed,a new study has found. Cristina Dye,lecturer in child language development,from the Newcastle University,found that two to three-year-olds are using grammar far sooner than expected.
She studied fifty French speaking youngsters aged between 23 and 37 months,capturing tens of thousands of their utterances.
Dye,who carried out the research while at Cornell University in the US,found that the children were using ‘little words’ which form the skeleton of sentences such as a,an,can,is,an,far sooner than previously thought.
Dye and her team used advanced recording technology including highly sensitive hidden microphones placed close to the children,to capture the precise sounds the children voiced. They spent years painstakingly analysing every minute sound made by the toddlers and the context in which it was produced.
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They found a clear,yet previously undetected,pattern of sounds and puffs of air,which consistently replaced grammatical words in many of the children’s utterances.
“Many of the toddlers we studied made a small sound,a soft breath,or a pause,at exactly the place that a grammatical word would normally be uttered,” Dye said.
“The fact that this sound was always produced in the correct place in the sentence leads us to believe that young children are knowledgeable of grammatical words. They are far more sophisticated in their grammatical competence than we ever understood.
For decades the prevailing view among developmental specialists has been that children’s early word combinations are devoid of any grammatical words. On this view,children then undergo a ‘tadpole to frog’ transformation where due to an unknown mechanism,they start to develop grammar in their speech. Dye’s results now challenge the old view.
“The research sheds light on a really important part of a child’s development. Language is one of the things that makes us human and understanding how we acquire it shows just how amazing children are,” said Dye.
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