Exploring Infant Engagement, Language Socialization and Vocabulary Development: A Study of Rural and Urban Communities in Mozambique
01 / 2009 - 10 / 2013
This project aims to investigate empirically and computationally the role of multimodal interactions on the evolution and acquisition of language. Empirically obtained data will be used to feed into computer models on evolution and acquisition of language, which so far have been using computer generated data only. It is believed that multimodal interactions, such as eye-gaze following, pointing and showing, help children to establish joint attention, which in turn aids them to learn word-meaning mappings. The research focuses on the three stages of joint attention suggested by Carpenter et al. (1998) checking attention, following attention and directing attention. In particular we are interested in the effect that differences in their usage have on language development. We will record the frequency distributions with which the three joint attentional stages are used at different moments in children s early language development. These distributions are then used as input to computer models such that the models can produce results that are better comparable with real life situation concerning children s language acquisition. The research is carried out in Mozambique and the Netherlands, because the literature suggest there are cross-cultural differences in the use of joint attention when children acquire language. Such differences may provide crucial clues regarding the underlying mechanisms of joint attention, language development and language evolution. Additional psychological experiments are carried out to compare the findings of Carpenter et al. cross-culturally. This project aims to develop innovative methods for using empirically obtained data to improve computational studies regarding language evolution and language development. Moreover, the project should provide insights into the cross-cultural aspects of language acquisition from a non-Western culture and shed new light on the way children use joint attention. This could help in developing educational programmes targeted at specific cultural and social groups.