Linguistics And The Effect On Human Learning English Language Essay

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Linguistics and speech patterns can affect the way humans learn and psychologically develop. This can be seen when examining the differences between infant direct speech and adult directed speech. Infant directed speech is a speech pattern aimed at infants and children by adults and is characterized by a high pitch outside the range of a normal adult conversation (Fernald, 1985). This prosodic speech pattern, is also spoken at a slower rate, has repetitive inonational structures, and contains simpler sentence structure (Thiessen, Hill, & Saffran, 2005). This type of speech pattern is in contrast to adult directed speech, which is the normal pattern of speech between adults. Infant directed speech patterns, also known as "motherese," is thought to help infants develop the understanding of turn taking in language, as well as help the infant to analyze sentence structure and speech rhythms by aurally highlighting new words and other new linguistic information (Fernald, 1985, p. 181). Based on past research and previously conducted studies, it can be determined that the use of infant directed speech plays an important role in linguistics and language learning.

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There are several studies of note in regards to infant directed speech. The first of which, was conducted by theorist Anne Fernald, in which she studied the responses of children to infant directed speech and adult directed speech. Fernald claimed that the pitch a mother uses when using infant directed speech, is finely tuned to the exact attention and arousal levels of an infant. She wanted to investigate this theory by examining the selective listening patterns of infants in regards to speech. Fernald believed that if the infants had selective listening, this proved that infants could respond to two sources of auditory stimuli and this would also indicate an infant's preference for either infant or adult directed speech. Fernald points out that previous studies established that infants respond to their mother's voice over that of a stranger, and so she predicted that infants would prefer infant directed speech, like that of their mother voice (Fernald, 1985, p. 182). For the experiment, Fernald used forty-eight 4-month-old infants and played them samples of infant and adult directed speech recordings. She then observed the physical responses of the infants based on what type of speech was being played at the time (Fernald, 1985). Fernald's findings confirmed her hypothesis that 4-month-olds would demonstrate a preference for infant directed speech was confirmed by the results of the study (Fernald, 1985).

In a following study, Roberta Mchnick Golinkoff and Anthony Alioto confirmed that the use of infant directed speech helps in the learning of language. Golinkoff and Alioto conducted an experiment in which adults were taught Mandarin by using both infant directed speech and adult directed speech. Participants were shown images and read a sentence in Mandarin using both infant and adult directed speech. The results maintained that adults learned linguistic terms more quickly when read infant directed speech clips. This supported the authors' assertion that Infant directed speech helps infants in understanding the linguistic stream, as the target words are often in the final position of a sentence (Golinkoff & Alioto, 1995). In a subsequent study, Erik D. Thiessen, Emily A. Hill, and Jenny R. Saffran, confirmed that infant directed speech does indeed help in the learning of language. Thiessen, Hill, & Saffran experiment included having one group of infants hearing nonsense sentences spoken in infant directed speech, using only the prosodic characteristic, while the other group heard nonsense sentences heard in adult directed speech. The study confirmed the hypothesis that infant directed speech is more effective than adult directed speech at teaching infants language, because it facilitates the segmentation of words (Thiessen, Hill, & Saffran, 2005).

Based on these three previous studies, it can be hypothesized that infants will prefer and learn more efficiently, when taught language using infant directed speech by their mother or familiar relative, rather than a stranger or technological device.

Experiment Overview

The goal of this experiment is to determine whether the voice of the teacher will have an effect on the ability of an infant to learn linguistics. This can be identified by varying the teaching voices that a group of infants hear. Based on the results of previous studies, the infants will no doubt prefer the sound of their mother's voice to that of a stranger or technological device. For this reason, it is reasonable to believe that the children will be more alert and less intimidated if taught linguistics through interactions with their mother, rather than that of a stranger. If children are more alert and more open to interpersonal communication, then they will most likely learn linguistics more efficiently and effectively. This would support the hypothesis that infants will prefer and learn more efficiently, when taught language using infant directed speech by their mother.

Argument Diagram

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Hypothesis: Infants will prefer and learn more efficiently, when taught language using infant directed speech by their mother or familiar relative, rather than a stranger or technological device.

Since infants learn better through infant directed speech, then it is the preferable way to teach infant language.

If infants prefer their mother's voice, then they would be more responsive to that voice when learning language.

Thiessen, Hill, & Saffran's study confirmed that infant direct speech helps linguistic learning through word segmentation

Golinkoff & Alioto's study confirmed that infant direct speech helps linguistic learning.

Fernald's study confirms that infants prefer their mother's voice and prefer infant directed speech.

Thiessen, Hill, & Saffran Argument Diagram

Hypothesis: Infant directed speech is more effective than adult directed speech at teaching infants language, because it facilitates the segmentation of words.

If pitch is the main different between adult directed speech and infant directed speech, then perhaps this is the reason why infant directed speech is more effective at teaching language.

There must be a specific reason why infant directed speech facilitates language learning more than adult directed speech.

Infant directed speech could be more effective than adult directed speech, when learning a language according to the Golinkoff & Alioto study.

Infant directed speech highlights words and segments within a sentence through pitch.