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Scientist Records First 5 Years of His Son's Life, Analyzes Language Development

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the strangely-does-not-name-him-truman dept.

Science 160

jamie tips a story about MIT cognitive scientist Deb Roy, who started a project five years ago, upon bringing his newborn son home from the hospital, to record his family's movement and speech inside their house. Since then, Roy has used various techniques to analyze and distill the 200 terabytes of raw data into useful and interesting visualizations. "For example, Roy was able to track the length of every sentence spoken to the child in which a particular word — like 'water' — was included. Right around the time the child started to say the word, what Roy calls the 'word birth,' something remarkable happened. 'Caregiver speech dipped to a minimum and slowly ascended back out in complexity.' In other words, when mom and dad and nanny first hear a child speaking a word, they unconsciously stress it by repeating it back to him all by itself or in very short sentences. Then as he gets the word, the sentences lengthen again. The infant shapes the caregivers’ behavior, the better to learn." Roy also compiled videos showing each time his son used certain words over a period of many months, clearly illustrating how those parts of the child's linguistic capabilities evolved over time.

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"Unconsciously stress?" (4, Interesting)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410342)

In other words, when mom and dad and nanny first hear a child speaking a word, they unconsciously stress it by repeating it back to him all by itself or in very short sentences.

As a father of three I can tell you that this behavior isn't "unconscious.". When your kids start to say words you will spend hours and then days saying them back to your children, to confirm what they said, to model better enunciation and to just to keep them engaged in a conversation with you. The words "by itself" bit is obvious - "affel" means either "I see an apple" or "I want a piece of your apple"; coaxing more out of your child at first would be torture and lead to frustration. "In short sentences" is also obvious - you wouldn't start your 18-month-year-old with long sentences.

Is there a story here or is this just a way for a guy to spend five fun years with his kid while drawing a paycheck?

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410426)

But my baby can read, because I bought the DVDs!!+Learn+to+Read+System/9924297.p?id=1218196479432&skuId=9924297&cmp=RMX&ref=06&loc=01&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=9924297 []

But seriously, most children of any culture throughout history develop language and behavior at roughly the same intervals. Early Childhood Development is easily understood, observed and recorded. It's frankly the reason most schools are broken down by similar grade ranges across the globe (because the human child form develops at predictable levels).

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410510)

And because the british, french, and prussians education systems all interacted with each other. And if you didn't base your system on one of theirs, they had a few 'suggestions' backed by very big guns.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

sshirley (518356) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411076)

Prussia is back???

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412944)

You do realise that "across the globe" counts a whole lot more then these three?

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411350)

That's not true at all. We have similar grades and levels because *all* schooling (for small children, at least) originated in the teachings and missions of Christian clergy. Because all school systems originate from the same system, they share quite a few properties (even stupid things like the layout of the writing desks, or even writing desks themselves). They share those even today. But that doesn't make it a biological property of humans, it makes it a cultural property of catholicism.

Yes, there's an educational system that's in use pretty much all over the world - the western christian one, with the explicit purpose of spreading knowledge, and that knowledge is to be as "pure" as possible (meaning theoretical). Literally the purpose of schooling was to "show the beauty of God" to as many people as possible, and yes, that includes mathematics, physics, biology, languages, ...

That doesn't mean every culture does it like that. Most cultures never developed any form of schooling for children. Schooling for both boys and girls - exists for millenia in the west - and is almost unique. Take muslims, for example, even today girl schooling is limited, at best (and not limited like "not well-represented in 2 fields of study", but limited in that there are dozens of nations with barely any girl educated above the age of 8 or 12, yet not a single christian nation, no matter how poor, has anywhere near such a bad situation for girls).

And, of course, medieval islamic states had no schooling for children at all (while a child born in Feudal europe would get instruction in mathematics, even if it would be a very flawed instruction indeed, at least it existed). Schooling, in medieval islam (or today in the poorer nations), meant being with your mother for 6 years, then being with your father (if you're male, of course : women are not allowed out of the house. (incidentally do you know the arameic translation of "not allowed out of the tent" ? Hid-jab ... just to show that hypocrisy runs *very* deep. Muslim women even 150 years ago did not wear headscarves at all. It also explains why so many old texts say "hijab prevents men from seeing women", after all, a headscarf doesn't exactly make a woman impossible to see, right ? If anything, it makes them a lot more conspicuous. But an entire house which they never leave ...)

Say you were a soldier. At 6, you simply started training with everyone else. Of course, they were somewhat lenient at first, but general a boy soldier was expected to fully participate in battle, and carry full armor and arms by age 8.

So there are major differences between what is considered schooling in western christian civilization and "the average" civilization, if there is such a thing
-> western schooling was theoretical. Everywhere else schooling, if it existed at all, was purely practical (yes there were very few theorists at all outside of the west, that's why someone like "al-khawarizmi" (most likely an Indian slave) is considered so important for writing a book that simply did not even approach the level of the works of the ancient greeks, written 2000 years earlier (nor does it approach works found in buddhist monasteries 500 years older). What's so unique about this guy then ? His book was sold to a Venetian priest in Algeria, who put it into the library of the pope in Venice, where a monk noticed it and popularized it over Europe. In his native persia, the last copy of his book was burned by muslim clergy for contradicting the quran (well, the entire library was burned for *maybe* contradicting it))
-> western schooling was provided to both sexes. Everywhere else girls simply helped their mothers. I'm not claiming, far from it, that girls were given equal education, or rights, to boys. But they were given something of an education outside of the house (though another unique part of the west is that since the new testament, the principle of equality between the sexes was present. Just the fact that the principle of equality of sexes was even mentioned is pretty unique. Needless to say, this was hardly the practical situation)
-> western schooling, due to the idea of the Christian church that science could unlock the mysteries of God, included non-religious subjects. It was even the case in quite a few places that physics, for example, was an equally valid path to Christ as studying the bible. This is totally unprecedented : most religions utterly destroyed every last trace of science. (an example : science developed in turkey from the greeks, all the way till the city fell to the muslims. 900 years before the fall a church was constructed, the Aya Sofia. After the fall, a mosque was constructed, that only matched the height of the church after part of the tower was removed. This mosque, which fails to measure up to a building that was constructed 900 years earlier and was designed by a captured slave, is by far the most impressive building ever constructed by the ottoman muslims, until they fell to ataturk in 1923). 200 years after the fall of the city the knowledge was "lost" (destroyed is more accurate) how to construct buildings with 3 floors, even with a church 55 meters in height standing in the very center of the city. But islam is hardly unique in its destruction of science : religions that accepted science are few and far between, and the few that did, only accepted a tiny little part, like predicting the motions of stars).

As to civilizations that have a continuous tradition of science and education lasting millenia ? There's exactly one of those around ... and yes, it has spread. That's why it *looks* these days as if everyone, from the Assyrian church to Zoroastrians educated their children in a manner very similar to western schools. That's not true, and there's lots of evidence that without western "dominance" (or whatever you like to call it), it will disappear again.

Yes, the whole world behaves very western, very christian, even with a majority professing they're not (it's called crypto-christianity : living according to the principles originating in the new testament, but claiming not to. It is obvious to see that 95% or more of all humans alive live like this). Unfortunately this is a thin layer over a very varied forest of cultures. Unfortunately (and obvious if you think about it for 5 seconds), all these cultures contain what we consider moral abominations, clashing with what western christianity has more-or-less codified in "human rights".

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411752)

pretty sure you are trolling there buddy, simply because you are claiming moral superiority for christians and backward behaviour for muslims.. perhaps you would like to comment about the chinese civilisation which stretches back several thousand years before christ?

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411802)

Can kids learn from the videos? I tried this at home with my own kids.
1. I recorded a video where a toy was hidden.
2. Then I played the video to a 2 year old.
3. The kid was exited about the toy, but when asked to find it, he was unable to find it (he tried searching from multiple places, but not from the correct place). When I said only the name of the place where it was hidden, he was instantly able to find it.
4. I repeated the test with 4 year old and she was able to find it instantly.

There are actually similar studies made and the conclusion seems to be that kids below 2.5 years are unable to learn anything from the videos. They not only learn nothing, but they actually learn less than kids who don't watch (educational) videos (kids know about 8 words less for each hour spend with videos).

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (4, Insightful)

Marc_Hawke (130338) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410464)

I'm pretty sure he meant 'instinctive' rather than 'unconscious.' Famously, your baby did NOT come with a manual that told you when to simplify your sentences to help him learn. I'm not sure where the line between 'common sense' and 'instincts' is, or whether we're just doing what we've seen other people do (i.e. learned, but not necessarily taught.)

Whatever you call it, however, 'unconscious' is definitely the wrong word.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (3, Funny)

Meddik (1849590) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410614)

You didn't get the Manual? Heck, you can download it on PDF now!

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411246)

I can't seem to find the manual you speak of (albeit I only did a quick google search), but I did come across plenty of instructional videos for the "making of" part.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411780)

Note: Most of those tutorials are for custom models with aftermarket parts. Factory models usually provide a lot fewer options. And even then, the order of operations may not be productive.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412764)

Links or it didn't happen.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (2)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410514)

I'm also a father and can say that this is one of the things I was most curious about. How kids learn to start talking. There really is a lot of trial and error at first and it takes a while before kids say anything intelligible. Parents of course become good at decoding what kids want.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (0)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410946)

How kids learn to start talking.

We watched the Jetsons. EEP OOP ORK AH-AH*... That means "<I love you> [] "

*my little sister's vocabulary for about 6 months

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (3, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410524)

Your post is an anecdote. He collected data. This is a story, and there an important difference.

As for not being obvious about the short sentences... with my youngest son (4th child, now 20 months old), I made the conscious decision not only "no baby talk", but talk in full sentences just like I do to adults.

I may say things 3 different ways, as well as point, draw and demonstrate but I still talk in normal adult-level conversation. You know, one step above PC tech support. :-)

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410590)

How is one, 5-yr-long, anecdote considered data?

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

naoursla (99850) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410738)

Because the data is recorded on non-subjective media.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410804)

And because he can measure things like average sentence length and so on. I'd LOVE to have this kind of data...though I'd hate to sift through it all.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410780)

The raw videos are data. The subjective recollections on the events that were recorded are anectdotes. One depicts real events, the other does not.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410812)

Why do you only talk like an adult? As far as I know, there's no (or mixed) support for talking like an adult versus "motherese." What is known is that children prefer "motherese."

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (0)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410952)

Actually I would have to say he "collected an anecdote". He only has a sample size of 1. Because of the actual recordings, he has better ability to recall what actually happened, but it's still not much better than me offering information based on my experiences with my 3 kids. If he had done the same with a group of 50 kids, or even more kids, I would think the data might be different, or if it wasn't different, I would at least think it was more valid.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411644)

There is a difference between a case study and an anecdote. And, when dealing with humans, everything is an anecdote - because cultural, historical, generational and linguistic factors are not reproducible. Just being different people than our parents will make our children's experiences, skill acquisition, cognitive development, etc., different. The presence of different types of media technologies (and adults habituated to them) and so forth compounds that effect.

So, even if I had an amazing diverse data set for a study spanning 10 years of kids, it's still just a snapshot, an "anecdote" about acquisition in the age of the internet, iPhones, HDTV, etc, a condition that will probably not even exist for significant details soon after such a study was finished.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411846)

Most kids are not raised in double blind batches of 50.

There are some experiments that are impractical.

Some because of their scope.

Some because you are potentially fucking up the lives of real human beings.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (5, Interesting)

ender- (42944) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410974)

As for not being obvious about the short sentences... with my youngest son (4th child, now 20 months old), I made the conscious decision not only "no baby talk", but talk in full sentences just like I do to adults.

We basically did the same thing with my daughter, now almost 6 years old. We never used baby talk [no 'baba' or 'wawa', always 'bottle' and 'water]. From day one we would talk to her constantly. We would explain every detail of everything we did in full sentences. Sure, we'd often use the high-pitched baby-talk cadence and tone [kids do respond to that and learn better from it], but always in full sentences .

The end result? Well, she didn't start talking particularly early, but she did move into complex sentences and ideas well before her peers. By the *beginning* of Kindergarten she was reading at a 2nd grade level with full comprehension, and able to get gist of most 3rd grade level stuff and higher. She has an amazing grasp of language. As an example, in the first month of her Kindergarten class, her teacher was walking them through the hallways. The teacher was asking the students not to look into the open doors of other classrooms. The teacher struggled to find the right word when she told them that the other classes might find it 'disturbing'. My daughter immediately pipes up and corrects her, saying, "Actually, I think you mean 'distracting'."

I'm no child development expert by any stretch of the imagination, but that strikes me as an amazing grasp of a very subtle difference in wording for a 5 year old to not only recognize, but immediately come up with the better word.

We still use complex sentences when we speak with her, and make a point to pull out all the stops with the vocabulary we will use with her. She's very good about stopping us and asking us what a word means if there's one she doesn't understand.

The downside to all of this is that she thinks most of her classmates are idiots, but frankly, she needs to learn to interact with people of differing abilities so she'll have to get over it. ;)

Now we just need to work on her math skills...

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (4, Interesting)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411772)

Now we just need to work on her math skills...

You may have jinxed yourself a bit. Cultivating precocity in one dimension seems to delay and sometimes restrict development in others. Especially during the most plastic periods of brain development, when there is almost a "neural arms races" to recruit "real estate" for different fluencies, abilities etc. The best advice, if you want a well-rounded child, is simply to allow the process to go on naturally, prodding for extra effort to get over occasional hurdles. Having educated "cognitively engineered super-babies, I think one does a child few favors by pushing for precocity. In fact, there are signs that it can be counter-productive, when the natural momentum of the early start is exhausted and they have to start "working" at it again.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

ender- (42944) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412012)

We didn't really aim to cultivate precocity. We just wanted her to grow up hearing proper speech so she learned that first instead of the 'baby-bonics' of 'baba' and 'wawa'. As for her math, I was basically being facetious. She's not as advanced in her math as she is with her speech/reading, but she's still a bit ahead of most of her class. She just is picking up the reading more quickly.

If my wife and I were total asses, we probably could have pushed her day-in and day-out to advance academically at the expense of everything else and she could probably have been one of those poor kids who graduate HS at 12 and get their PhD at 19 or whatever. But that's not the kind of [sad] life we want for our kid. We read to her at bed time (or have her read to us), we guide her to do things for herself when possible. She actually enjoys doing vocabulary and math workbooks, so I'm not exactly going to tell her no. But on the flip side, she likes watching cartoons and playing computer games, so she spends as much of her spare time watching mindless pap as she does working her brain.

I think the only way I've failed her thus far is her physical fitness. She's not fat [she usually makes healthy eating choices] but she has no strength at all. I'm working on getting her outside more and strong enough to actually pedal her little bike, but it's a slow process. I figure all of her calories are going to her brain...

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412240)

Are you and your wife physically active? Do you like going for bike rides, going to the park, swimming, etc (on a regular basis)? Kids learn most of their behaviors through modeling.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

ender- (42944) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412560)

Well, we used to be, before we had a kid. We do have a pool so we do swim, but many of the physical activities we used to do, we haven't done for some time.

However I am aiming to change that. As a matter of fact, just this past weekend I finally bought a new bike. I used to ride [bmx/freestyle] EVERYWHERE when I was young, but had gotten out of the habit. I plan to ride frequently now, and hopefully that will motivate her to want to learn to ride so she can ride with us.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411786)

Maybe if we didn't teach kids to be retarded, they wouldn't be so shitty. I fucking hate children, but I find small asian kids unbelievably disturbing. Every child I meet is a retarded asshole... but the little chinese/japanese kids are like 3 years old, they're quiet, polite, they watch what they do, they get the fuck out of your way, and they don't touch your shit because it's there and they wanna get their grabby hands on it. WTF? It's unbelievably creepy. These are not the kids I'm used to.

We're doing something wrong. Seriously.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412284)

Good on her, for the word correction, but I think that she chose the wrong word. Looking into a class shouldn't distract. It's the walking past that would do it. "Disturb" might be better, in that it might make students inside the class wonder why they are being looked at. Before they even notice that they are being looked at, they are being distracted.

I think that they both chose the words that reflected what they are trying to communicate, but the fact is that looking doesn't distract.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

toadlife (301863) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412402)

While I don't think skipping the baby talk would be bad for language development, I think you might be taking credit for too much there.

I have three kids. The oldest didn't say much of anything until he was three, but was extremely bright at math once he entered school. He is seven now and it a wiz at math and at a normal pace in language arts.

Our second talked earlier and is now reading at a 2nd grade level in kindergarten, but is at a normal level in math.

There are clear differences in each childs personality. The first, the "math wiz", has my personality. I'm an IT person and like him excelled in math in school and did okay at language arts.

The second, the reading wiz, has my wife's personality. She is working on her MA in English literature and was reading Shakespeare in 2nd grade.

As far as I know we treated both the same - or at least we made no effort to treat any of them differently.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

ender- (42944) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412656)

Granted, it's hard to tell how much of her current ability involved her natural abilities versus the way we've treated and interacted with her. The old 'nature vs. nurture' argument. It's entirely likely that she just has a natural predilection for language. But I'm fairly certain that given her natural abilities, she's further along now because we spoke in complete sentences and explained in detail everything that we did, than she would have been had we not done so.

And though she's not as strong in math, because we've always worked with her in as natural a way as possible (explaining money, having her help pull change, and count things), she's probably further along now than she would have been had we not done that as well.

As I said though, I'm hardly an expert on child development, so I could be wrong. :)

And there's certainly the chance that she might reach a given level of ability in either of those things, then progress no further, allowing her classmates to catch up. I suspect not though as both my wife and I are fairly intelligent. [Relative to the general population anyway. I think I hang around in the wrong circles where I sometimes feel inadequate in my intelligence.]

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

MagicM (85041) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411110)

As for not being obvious about the short sentences... with my youngest son (4th child, now 20 months old), I made the conscious decision not only "no baby talk", but talk in full sentences just like I do to adults.

I think that most of the short sentences that GP is talking about are responses. Once a child starts saying "apple", a parent will more frequently say "you want some apple?" in response. As a result the average sentence length will go down. It has nothing to do with baby talk or even with conversation initiated by the parent.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (0)

Niobe (941496) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411156)

Well that's ridiculous. You're second guessing evolution and almost everyone's natural instinct to talk 'baby talk'. Do you really think you know better?

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411862)

I'd say that's cultural. I don't think the Japanese have such a thing, but I'm not sure their language allows that level of corruption. I mean there's stuff like anata becoming anta, etc, but that's used between close friends and is a standard language feature rather than an improper corruption. It's informal. From a young age, children learn to speak up to those unfamiliar or in a higher class (elders, teachers, employers) with deference, and to those unfamiliar (peers) with ... less deference, yet still quite formal speaking ... and to those extremely familiar in a more casual manner.

It's not like in English, where we go "uhwuzza wuzzat you wanna bana nana?" at kids and people go "what the fuck did you get a piece of rebar reamed into your skull lady?" Consequently, I'm rather certain this is "we saw this all over and this is normal so do it."

Kids are radically different. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410556)

My daughter was at the pediatrician for her one year shots. She was only 11 month old. She looked into the doctor's eyes and said, "All done now. Go home." It was very interesting to get insight into the workings of a 1 year old's mind!

At 14 months, she was at her older brother's soccer game when a stranger walked up and asked if she was drinking lemon aide. My daughter casually replied, "Actually, it's pink lemon aide." Yes - she said that at 14 months.

In contrast, her older brother didn't talk until 3 years and had speech therapy until 5 years.

Kids are radically different.

Re:Kids are radically different. (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411948)

I didn't start reading until the first grade. Had teachers tell me I was retarded and that I would never catch up with the rest of the kids. At the time, my options for reading were baby books about jack walking up a hill with his dog, and she was a bitch.

By 3rd grade I was reading at a college level and was given a rule that I had to check out at least 1 fiction book from the library each time I went because my mother was worried that I was reading to many text books.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410714)

I find this to be interesting. I have noted that this same scientist is promoting some related software -- not something I am interested in. But the patterns of adults relating to children and the development of speech is of great interest to me.

My third son is growing up "bi-lingual." His mother is Japanese and I am a native English speaker. It is typical for adults to speak more slowly to a child to ensure that they are getting the information being transmitted to them.... at least it is normal here in the U.S. However, I find his mother does not slow down for my son at all. She speaks out at full speed to him at all times until I step in to defend. (I think it helps to know and understand that Japanese "spoken slowly" makes people think you are retarded or extremely old so that may be the reason she prefers to speak at full speed.)

There is a variety of other interesting things where my son's language skills are concerned, but most notably is the fact that for a long while, I thought his skills were low. In fact, they were quite high were comprehension is concerned and where speaking was concerned, he is merely being lazy. (They were out of the country for about 6 months until recently so I was unable to observe any changes or progress during their absence.) However, upon their return, I noted that despite his disconnection from English, his knowledge and comprehension of English did not diminish and seems to have improved. Further, he is able to say words that he has never spoken before to either of us and can speak every word I teach him.

I think in the end, what I was seeing was primarily a lazy parent who responded sufficiently to hints and body language and the boy never NEEDED to speak. She hasn't been teaching him or requiring him to speak. Within two days of return, however, I have required him to speak and his language skills have been explosive in development.

On top of that, he also knows his hiragana perfectly, seems to understand just about everything his mother says (except when she speaks full speed which, at times results in wide eyes and a fearful expression on his face). So it's all extremely interesting.

I think it's important to remember and to remind all that this one child is a sample size far too small to make any conclusions.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411904)

I've been learning Japanese lately but my Hiragana is undeveloped. Been lazy with it though, I've had the language course for like a year now and I've gone through about 30 hours of study, with only 14 lessons so far... on average, I've done each twice. I need to pick up the pace; I have no real exposure. Same with German... it's amazing I can still chitchat with the girl at the meat market and order my food in Deutsch. (Aside, I strangely associate the original language with shit when I learn a language... like I'll say English, Nihongo, Nihon, Deutsch, Deutschland, etc, reflexively once I start learning the language of the area... dunno why.)

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

euxneks (516538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410734)

Has anyone else recorded a full five years of development including the surrounding environment and parental units? I think this is useful in learning cognition and child development specifically because it can corroborate or negate current models of child development. (I am not associated with this field) Just because it confirms a lot of hypotheses doesn't mean that makes it useless :)

Not to mention he seems to have come up with a novel way to relate the data. Apparently he wants to use this in other fields as well.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410792)

When one of my kids says "affel", I might wonder what he heard from his older brothers. When they get to "You affel!", the meaning becomes clear.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410936)

is this just a way for a guy to spend five fun years with his kid while drawing a paycheck?

If you could, wouldn't you?,/p>

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

Niobe (941496) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411138)

I pretty much agree. But also what is the point? Another scientist conducting years of research only to state the obvious. And as though the research itself gives validity to our behaviour. I'd rather rely on 4 billion years of evolution and a few decades personal experience.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411686)

In other words, when mom and dad and nanny first hear a child speaking a word, they unconsciously stress it by repeating it back to him all by itself or in very short sentences.

As a father of three I can tell you that this behavior isn't "unconscious.". When your kids start to say words you will spend hours and then days saying them back to your children, to confirm what they said, to model better enunciation and to just to keep them engaged in a conversation with you. The words "by itself" bit is obvious - "affel" means either "I see an apple" or "I want a piece of your apple";

In my experience this behavior is stupidity. "Affel? Did woo zay affel? Yes you did, yes you did! Heeeeee~"

In other words, when mom and dad and nanny first hear a child speaking a word, they unconsciously become retarded.

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412080)

Ever heard of positive feed back and what it can do?

Re:"Unconsciously stress?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412704)

In my experience reading your posts, if there's any one thing you know inside and out, it's stupidity.

right out (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410356)

fuck the breeders

Fuck 'em! (3, Funny)

Onuma (947856) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410706)

Generally speaking...that IS how babies are born.


da (93780) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410372)

Oh, er, hang on...

Duh? (1)

wmbetts (1306001) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410374)

Has anyone with kids not observed this?

Re:Duh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411162)

Has anyone with kids recorded it so they can quantify it and use it to confirm and model the learning process instead of just spouting out anecdotal information.

This guy has. and now he can say, "yes it is true, and here is the proof to back it up!"

but then by analyzing all the recordings he can go even further and determine on average how many times the child heard a word over his lifetime before he picked it up. or maybe there are other useful things that can be picked out of it.

Another slashdot infomercial... (4, Interesting)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410378)

Okay, he recorded his child. Has he made a theoretical breakthrough? Not much of one mentioned in the article. All it says is.. surprise, surprise... this guy is starting a new company he wants to promote. And it is based on this incredible software that this article doesn't really explain to us.

Re:Another slashdot infomercial... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410546)

Well, I for one think that any decent software that can parse that amount of data into any kind of useful and repeatable refined data is interesting.
Especially if it does the vocal analysis automatically... It could be very interesting to analyze peoples speech patterns in any number of social interactions.
I'm not sure it would be GOOD science but fun?

Lets for instance say we have 4 IT admins hanging by the watercooler and the really hot intern walks by and shows his stuff off. Yes, his. I work in a female dominated workplace and they are just as bad as us guys, theyre just a little more discreet about it.

Re:Another slashdot infomercial... (1)

Wendelcrow (1543377) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410610)

Fail on login. That last comment was mine.

Re:Another slashdot infomercial... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411416)

Fail on login. That last comment was mine.

I say you are an impostor. The comment was obviously mine.

Re:Another slashdot infomercial... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411424)

Preceding unsigned comment added by Wendelcrow (talk [] contribs [] ) 4:31, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

Re:Another slashdot infomercial... (1)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410700)

That's because it's for the magazine Fast Company (I used to get it for free for some reason but thankfully it's stopped coming), which is geared towards entrepreneurs (it's not a particularly good magazine).

Re:Another slashdot infomercial... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412230)

I was looking at that magazine this morning. You understate how bad it is. It's a TERRIBLE magazine. It's 64 pages celebrating buzzword marketing fads. It was embarrassing.

This is nothing new. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412696)

Back in the late '60s or early '70s I took a "Psychology of Language Acquisition" course for a humanities distribution requirement. One of the things we were told about was a researcher in the field who had sound-filmed most of her daughter's waking life for several years, to collect such data.

An interesting artifact from that was that the daughter had coined a three-syllable word-like thing that sounded like "ah-WIDdah". (I think it was during the two- or three-word utterance stage.) She seemed to use it like an ordinary word. But mommy, and the rest of the department, couldn't figure out what it meant or what purpose it served. Eventually she stopped using it. Some time after the experiment was over and the daughter was talking normally, they showed the films to the daughter. She couldn't figure it out, either. (The scientists figure it most likely was a placeholder for words that she hadn't learned yet. But that's hardly needed in the small-group utterances stages so it's still a mystery.)

Very Cool (2)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410412)

It's amazing to watch a human learn the art of speech. I wish I had begun recording at my daughter's first sounds and continued while they evolved into the full sentences she carries on now at three years old. Unless you have a chronicle of such events it's hard to remember when they could only say a few words, especially when it's hard to get them to stop talking long enough to eat dinner. Even as parents the speech patterns change as the child is old enough to understand and repeat...although there's not much funnier than hearing a toddler say "goddamnit", or "son of a bitch" - I think that's the entire premise that South Park was built on.

Re:Very Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410698)

Dude, I was about to say that if there isn't much funnier than hearing a kid swear, then you need to get out of the house more. Then I decided to not say anything to spare your feelings.

Re:Very Cool (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410806)

Uh, I have kids...I don't leave the house.

Re:Very Cool (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410820)

Correction, I don't leave the house unless it's to drop one off or pick one up. So yeah, that shit's funny.

Re:Very Cool (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410966)

Having a toddler is often at odds with getting out of the house more. :) That said, I agree with the GP. My wife and I have been in hysterics at some of the things my son says, especially when we have to find a reason to explain that certain words are not things he is allowed to say at school or in front of Grandma (even if she and I are not offended by them), and that that word is not a color with which you can paint your boat.

I think the amusement comes from the conflicts in social expectations. We (as parents) know that kids are expected not to say some words, and yet we don't want to characterize them as bad words. They're good words, very descriptive, sometimes the Right Word. (When my son said, "Dammit, that won't work!", he was using it pretty much spot-on correctly.) However, we want to communicate that he's not supposed to say them around other people, etc. We're amused because he's saying something very silly ("I'm going to paint my boat yellow, and orange, and F---. F, F, F, F, F ..... ") and nonsensical, and reconciling that with the feeling of "Oh god, he can't say that!!", because we have to question why he shouldn't say it.

All that is just handwaving in an attempt to justify the breath-impairing amusement we feel when our son says something like that. It's funny. Now if only I could find a way to satisfactorily answer him as to why the dinosaurs died.

uncle Froyd is in need (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410418)

Where is uncle Froyd to mod him up.....or down.... I really wonder, what caused this scientist to expose the childhood of his own son!!!!!

Re: uncle Froyd is in need (1)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410578)

Do you mean Freud, as in Sigmund Freud?

I'm still working on "expose the childhood". Do you mean "exploit"? I'm hoping you didn't mean "expose the manhood", then he would not only need Freud, but a good lawyer!

Re: uncle Froyd is in need (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410722)

Ok, ok, it is Freud. And both of them. He is exposing the "internals" of his son's life, which is highly private, and is exploiting his son for what, fame? Did he actually asked his son, or at least is there any signed agreement?

Re: uncle Froyd is in need (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410976)

Given that minors can't give informed consent, and such things are normally signed by their parents, I believe the father in this case IS the authority on whether it's OK.

Re: uncle Froyd is in need (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411962)

Freud, I heard about that guy's book... it's about penises, isn't it?!

from this we have evolved to ?media wars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410428)

everything's some kind of battle, words, pictires in this case. take the military jargon out, & you have conflicting 'journalism'/motives. even beyond that, you might find information dissemination/distribution. where it turns to 'war', appears to be when one 'side' tells the truth, & the other,,, starts shooting. the evolution of the choices of words can also conflict/distract from the stated goal (truth). each 'side', then insists on being 'right', therefore avaoiding having to agree what the truth may be. journalism? language? body count. they even lie about that.

Interesting from an AI perspective... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410458)

Looks like this type of data could provide hints in how to grow AI that can learn languages. I wish I had the time to look into/develop such things.

Useful data (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410468)

This is very useful data. We're going to know considerably more about how language really works once this is analyzed.

A few more people need to do this, for comparison and confirmation. It also needs to be done for a tonal language, like Chinese.

Re:Useful data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411070)

Mod parent up - not everyone has kids and this information was, at least to me, previously unknown and potentially of use in designing ANNs. I wouldn't have guessed the points remarked as being unconscious on the part of the caregivers.

Re:Useful data (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411580)

This is very useful data. We're going to know considerably more about how language really works once this is analyzed.

Never mind that - we could find out more about how the "boot process" of the infant human brain works when it extracts meaning from context alone. This has profound implications for understanding language development and autism spectrum disorders, and I am saddened to see that this research isn't going in that direction.

Scientist discovers feedback... (1)

KRL (664739) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410554) at 11!

Dunstan Baby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410602)

Something else that should be looked at is the Dunstan Baby DVD's. The gist of it:

Priscilla Dunstan has enhanced auditor perception and recall, in this case hearing.
Priscilla has a baby and realizes that babies of all nationalities produce almost identical sounds pretty much at birth.
Priscilla then starts associating sounds to baby wants/need/behaviors.
She then develops materials to teach parents how to recognize the sounds infants make to best take care of their needs.

sounds like the dog translator. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410664)

maybe the creators of the dog translator should make one for babies

Re:Dunstan Baby (2)

ender- (42944) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411008)

Or you can teach them basic sign language, which the baby is able to do well before they are capable of speech. It's great having a baby who rarely cries because they can make their needs known instead of just screaming until you manage to figure out the problem through trial and error.

Re:Dunstan Baby (1)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412002)

Sounds like a money-making scam to me, but then again I don't have enhanced auditor perception and recall.

That's how it goes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410680)

unfortunately Roy has never once touched his son as he was busy with his studies, and subsequently, his son grow up with a lot of resentment towards his father.

How I see the process (4, Interesting)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410716)

I think we always learn languages the same way, the only difference between a baby and an adult learning is that the baby doesn't have a first language to fall back on so their need to learn to communicate is greater.

Watching my first kid learn to speak was like watching myself try to learn Spanish. First, was total immersion and a complete lack of understanding. Eventually, there were attempts at copying the sounds; these attempts eventually led into attempts at forming words. Once the vocabulary reached a certain level words got combined to form simple sentences with noises and pointing to fill in the rest. From there, you're relatively close to having a full conversation.

correlation not causation (2)

lkcl (517947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410750)

whilst this is interesting, it is a statistical sample of one family and one family only, albeit a rather long sample. we do not, for example, "modify our sentence structure to repeat more frequently words when immediately learned", but we do find ourselves using words which we know that baby lilyana now knows, in order to more include her in our day-to-day lives: there's a subtle difference.

one clarification: the article seems to be pointing out that it is through speech that the child "trains" the adults (not the other way round), the possible mistaken implication being that it is exclusively by speech that children get their adults to adapt to them. in fact, children do a hell of a lot more than use words to get their adults to do their bidding!

as lilyana is 23 months, we will be leaving it another 6 months or so for her to basically do as she pleases, when she pleases, with us supporting her at every step, so that she gets a chance to see how the world works _without_ being made massively and irrevocably insecure or limited by "no" [except when it's dangerous!].

Re:correlation not causation (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411016)

While I understand where you're coming from, I have a 2.5 year old, too. She's rarely told no, but often told the consequences of her actions first.

She snapped her hand good with a rubber band a couple of days ago. I told her she would, and she looked at me, at the rubber band, then pulled it back and snapped it. Ten seconds of tears, and off to another experiment to see how stuff works ;0)

Re:correlation not causation (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412066)

This is another reason why teaching young children (4 year olds are pretty good, oddly enough...) to play Go is a good idea. The learning process of Go is simple:

  1. You make an underplay.
  2. You get boxed in.
  3. You lose.
  4. You make an overplay.
  5. You get cut.
  6. You lose.
  7. Go to 4; however, the overplay will be smaller.

You QUICKLY learn you can't do certain shit because bad things happen. Then the games get more complex because you play stronger players, less handicap, etc. You know you can't do certain shit, but you start examining the positions thinking, "Can I get away with this?" You start thinking it out, playing through in your head... it's called "reading." More and more... deeper, as deep as you can... until you know just exactly what you can get away with before you go into it, or what the consequences of your actions will be.

It starts happening in real life pretty fucking fast. You look at shit and go, "... wait. ............... no, screw that."

Positive Research. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410760)

The guy spent 5 years gathering data, then wrote/developed/used something new to chart and analyse all that data, then applied theory to it.

Some duh moments there, the excitement when your kid first says a word and the cycle of reinforcing that word is fairly obvious to any parent.

However 5 years of documented research backed by significant data and methodology is a lot more useful to science and future research than "known truths" based on anecdotes and undocumented personal experience.

Why all the bagging on this? I personally find his commitment admirable and love seeing data to support what people just assume. Not all research involves bleeding edge quantum theory/black holes/dark matter sci fi stuff.

I can't figure out if he has published an academic paper and this article is just a fluff piece or if it is just promo stuff for his startup.

Poor Kid (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410798)

I'd hate to be the kid of such a scientist. Imagine growing up and running for public office, only to have "Bobby's Daily Poop Length Chart" show up on the internet.

babys/LSI/w+dog; prepping since forever for this (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410834)

the time for 'words' is shrinking? see you at the play-dates. be there or be scared.

we do have some intentions;

1. DEWEAPONIZATION (not a real word, but they like it) almost nothing else good happens until some progress here.

2. ALL BABYS CREATED/TO BE TREATED, EQUALLY. (a rough interpretation (probably cost us. seems like a no-brainer but they expressed that we fail on that one too(:)->) 'we do not need any 300$ 'strollers', or even to ride in your smelly cars/planes etc..., until such time as ALL of the creators' innocents have at least food, shelter, & some loving folks nearby.' again, this is a deal breaker, so pay attention, that's cheap enough, & could lead to our survival?

3. THOU SHALT NOT VACCINATE IRRESPONSIBLY. this appears to be a stop-gap intention.

the genuine feelings expressed included; in addition to the lack of acknowledgment of the advances/evolution of our tiny bodies/dna (including consciousness & intellect), almost nobody knows anymore what's in those things (vaccines) (or they'd tell us), & there's rumor much of it is less than good (possibly fatal) for ANY of us. if it were good for us we'd be gravitating towards it, instead of it being shoved in our little veins, wrecking them, & adversely affecting our improving immune systems/dna/development? at rite-aid, they give the mommies 100$ if they let them stick their babys with whoknowswhat? i can see why they're (the little ones) extremely suspicious? they're also asking that absolutely nobody be allowed to insert those corepirate nazi 'identity' 'chips' in their tiny frames. they know who they, and we, are, much better than we ever will? many, oddly? have fading inclinations to want to be reporters of nefarious life threatening processes, ie. 'conspiracies', as they sincerely believe that's 'stuff that REALLY matters', but they KNOW that things are going to be out in the open soon, so they intend to put their ever increasing consciousness, intellect, acute/astute senses & information gathering abilities, to the care & feeding of their fellow humans. no secrets to cover up with that goal.


sortie like a no-(aerosol tankers)-fly zone being imposed over the whole planet. the thinking is, the planet will continue to repair itself, even if we stop pretending that it's ok/nothing's happening. after the weather manipulation is stopped (& it will be) it could get extremely warm/cold/blustery some days. many of us will be moving inland..., but we'll (most of us anyway) be ok, so long as we keep our heads up. conversely, the manufactured 'weather' puts us in a state of 'theater' that allows US to think that we needn't modify our megaslothian heritage of excessiveness/disregard for ourselves, others, what's left of our environment etc...? all research indicates that spraying chemicals in the sky is 100% detrimental to our/planet's well being (or they'd talk to US about it?). as for weather 'extremes', we certainly appear to be in a bleeding rash of same, as well as all that bogus seismic activity, which throws our advanced tiny baby magnets & chromosomes into crisis/escape mode, so that's working? we're a group whose senses are more available to us (like monkeys?) partly because we're not yet totally distracted by the foibles of man'kind'. the other 'part' is truly amazing. we saw nuclear war being touted on PBS as an environmental repair tool (?depopulation? (makes the babys' 'accountants' see dark red:-(-? yikes. so what gives? thanks for your patience & understanding while we learn to express our intentions. everybody has some. let us know. come to some of our million baby play-dates. no big hurry? catch your breath. we'll wait a bit more. thanks.

do the math. check out YOUR dna/intentional healing potential. thanks again.

Re:babys/LSI/w+dog; prepping since forever for thi (1)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411612)

Mod parent up. This is some timecube-quality insane rambling.

wait till he has a daughter and then compare (1)

Corporate Gadfly (227676) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410960)

I did not RTFA, in pure /. fashion, but I'm wondering what would have happened if the author of the study had a girl. Every child develops their language skills on their own individual schedule, however, in my relatively small experience, girls tend to talk quicker than boys. My 18-month boy is struggling to say mama, dada, and banana, while my daughter at that age was stringing together a few words together. My wife's freaking out and is considering speech therapy if he doesn't talk by 2 years of age. My son seems to comprehend fine. He knows when I tell him to go take a bath or when to go sit in a timeout (a little early to start with timeout, isn't it? but at this point it's to get him used to the idea more than anything) and knows when I tell him to go get his boots.

Speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411052)

The face says a lot, especially the mouth part

reactionary much? (1)

escay (923320) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411154)

why is this story tagged 'peeping tom'? if we're able to gain deeper insights into human cognitive abilities and language learning skills (which is a crucial part of developing strong AI), the price of privacy is cheap. the whole up-in-arms-about-privacy that people tend to get into is becoming more and more of a reactionary effect these days without them actually realizing the tradeoff and making a decision on a case-by-case basis.

sometimes, it is worth it.

better link (1)

juggledean (792527) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411512)

Here's a 2009 BBC article with some description of the tech

The Guy Needs To Get A Facebook Account (2)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411896)

...because everyone I know with a baby or toddler spends their *WHOLE* time either updating their status about it or putting up *YET MORE* photos of it.

I don't wish harm to anyone or any kid on this planet but I just wish these people would GET A FUCKING LIFE outside their kids sometimes because it is FUCKING BORING!

Re:The Guy Needs To Get A Facebook Account (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412388)

I just wish these people would GET A FUCKING LIFE outside their kids sometimes

Perhaps you could offer to babysit?

Having a little person who is entirely dependant on you is extremely time consuming. Thoughtful people like yourself who are concerned about their "FUCKING BORING" lives could help out by giving them some free time.

Re:The Guy Needs To Get A Facebook Account (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412468)

A piece of advice:

"If you can't cope with your own kids, then don't have them. Put something on the end of it."

There, that one's free.

Re:The Guy Needs To Get A Facebook Account (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412894)

I don't remember any discussion of not coping with their kids, can you explain why you think your advice is appropriate (or at least relevant)?

In any case, unless your advice comes with a free time machine it seems to be of little value.

So that's how they are made (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412998)

So cam-whores are made, not born?

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