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News of the Day.
March 24, 2009.
Getting it right by getting it wrong: When learners change languages.
When natural language input contains grammatical forms that are used probabilistically and inconsistently, learners will sometimes reproduce the inconsistencies; but sometimes they will instead regularize the use of these forms, introducing consistency in the language that was not present in the input. In this paper we ask what produces such regularization. We conducted three artificial language experiments, varying the use of determiners in the types of inconsistency with which they are used, and also comparing adult and child learners. In Experiment 1 we presented adult learners with scattered inconsistency - the use of multiple determiners varying in frequency in the same context - and found that adults will reproduce these inconsistencies at low levels of scatter, but at very high levels of scatter will regularize the determiner system, producing the most frequent determiner form almost all the time. In Experiment 2 we showed that this is not merely the result of frequency: when determiners are used with low frequencies but in consistent contexts, adults will learn all of the determiners veridically. In Experiment 3 we compared adult and child learners, finding that children will almost always regularize inconsistent forms, whereas adult learners will only regularize the most complex inconsistencies. Taken together, these results suggest that regularization processes in natural language learning, such as those seen in the acquisition of language from non-native speakers or in the formation of young languages, may depend crucially on the nature of language learning by young children. CP. 2009 Mar 24.
March 23, 2009.
Implications of family environment and language development: comparing typically developing children to those with spina bifida.
Introduction This study examines the effect of family environment on language performance in children with myelomeningocele compared with age- and education-matched controls selected from the same geographic region. Methods Seventy-five monolingual (English) speaking children with myelomeningocele [males: 30; ages: 7-16 years; mean age: 10 years 1 month, standard deviation (SD) 2 years 7 months] and 35 typically developing children (males: 16; ages 7-16 years; mean age: 10 years 9 months, SD 2 years 6 months) participated in the study. The Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language (CASL) and the Wechsler tests of intelligence were administered individually to all participants. The CASL measures four subsystems: lexical, syntactic, supralinguistic and pragmatic. Parents completed the Family Environment Scale (FES) questionnaire and provided background demographic information. Standard independent sample t-tests, chi-squared and Fisher's exact tests were used to make simple comparisons between groups for age, socio-economic status, gender and ethnicity. Spearman correlation coefficients were used to detect associations between language and FES data. Group differences for the language and FES scores were analysed with a multivariate analysis of variance at a P-value of 0.05. Results For the myelomeningocele group, both Spearman correlation and partial correlation analyses revealed statistically significant positive relationships for the FES 'intellectual-cultural orientation' (ICO) variable and language performance in all subsystems (P < 0.01). For controls, positive associations were seen between: (1) ICO and lexical/semantic and syntactic subsystems; and (2) FES 'independence' and lexical/semantic and supralinguistic tasks. Conclusions The relationship between language performance and family environment appears statistically and intuitively sound. As in our previous study, the positive link between family focus on intellectually and culturally enhancing activities and language performance among children with myelomeningocele and shunted hydrocephalus remains robust. Knowledge of this relationship should assist parents and professionals in supporting language development through activities within the natural learning environment.
CCHD. 2009 Mar 23
March 23, 2009. A longitudinal study of autism spectrum disorders in individuals diagnosed with a developmental language disorder as children.
Background A number of studies have shown that the diagnosis of developmental language disorder (DLD) can be unstable over time, such that young children with a diagnosis of DLD may show symptoms more characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at a later date. Method To estimate the types and prevalence of ASD 469 individuals with a DLD, consecutively assessed in the same clinic during a period of 10 years, and 2345 controls from the general population were screened for ASD through the nationwide Danish Psychiatric Central Register (DPCR). The mean length of observation was 34.7 years, and the mean age at follow-up 35.8 (range: 28.3-46.7) years. Results At follow-up, 10 (2.1%) in the DLD group and two (0.09%) in the comparison group were known in the DPCR with a diagnosis of any ASD (P < 0.0001; odds ratio = 25.5; 95% confidence interval 5.5-116.9). Conclusion Our results provide additional support to the notion that DLD is a marker of increased vulnerability to the development of ASD. CCHD. 2009 Mar 23.