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Re: [xmca] Deb Roy: The birth of a word

Glad you chimed in here, Lauren!
TED Talks do beautifully what they promise—introduce ideas and people, spark the imagination and sometimes insire.

Don't forget to check out the latest at http://loisholzman.org

Lois Holzman, Ph.D.
Director, East Side Institute for Group and Short Term Psychotherapy
920 Broadway, 14th floor
New York NY 10010
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tel. 212.941.8906 ext. 324
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On Mar 19, 2011, at 1:26 PM, Lauren Zentz wrote:

> With all due respect to all the brilliant minds on this list and in this
> discussion, I have been following along here and there since this
> conversation started and wondering the entire time exactly what research and
> knowledge implications we should be worried about based on a 20 minute TED
> Talk.  It seems that for us as researchers it is very important to know what
> Roy is doing with language acquisition and development research, and who
> will be buying which ideas that he puts forth; but I feel like the intended
> message of his talk, which was given to a *very* broad, and generally
> non-linguist, non-cognitivist, and non-social scientist audience, was
> basically to demonstrate how amazing are the technological tools he is using
> to do this research, and to generally inspire a larger population of
> listeners regarding how complex and precious is the nature of human
> (language) development.
> I wonder if maybe, if we want to discuss the implications of his research,
> those of us interested could take a look at the actual publications he has
> written, where he has published them, and what audiences read them:
> http://web.media.mit.edu/~dkroy/publications/index.html.
> Lauren Zentz
> Doctoral Candidate, Language, Reading and Culture
> College of Education, University of Arizona
> On Sat, Mar 19, 2011 at 9:48 AM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
>> I wonder if criticisms of the sort voiced in this company might not
>> influence the subsequent course of inquiry. There are a bunch of critical
>> comments below the Roy
>> presentation that could benefit from this discussion.
>> mike
>> On Sat, Mar 19, 2011 at 9:14 AM, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>>> On Mar 16, 2011, at 9:16 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
>>>> I am not entirely sure I agree with Martin's and Jim's criticisms.
>> First
>>> of all, when I read Halliday's work on early language acquisition, it
>> seems
>>> MORE objective than Deb Roy's "space time worms". Halliday is looking at
>>> grammar and especially at function. But I am really not sure at all what
>> Deb
>>> Roy is looking at. I can't even understand, when I am looking at the
>> worms,
>>> what is space and what is time, but above all I can't understand how it
>>> helps him organize his transcriptions. (I can see how it makes for a cool
>>> presentation, though!)
>>> Like Jim, I'd like to clarify my previous message. I didn't mean to sound
>>> as though I were rejecting any use of technology for this kind of
>> research.
>>> Obviously videorecording and other techniques of objectification are
>> crucial
>>> for the study of a phenomenon as fleeting as speech. But any
>> investigation
>>> of children's acquisition of language has to make use of the intuitions
>> of
>>> speakers of that language. One needs to be able to recognize the legal
>>> combinations of phonemes, and syllables, and the illegal combinations, in
>>> order to plot the movement from one to the other. One needs to recognize
>> a
>>> word, and approximations to it, and what it signifies in a specific
>> occasion
>>> of use. The utility of computers, then, to help conduct an analysis of a
>>> child's speech depends on ones ability to program them with the
>> equivalent
>>> of these intuitions. The degree of success with which we have been able
>> to
>>> program computers to recognize human speech is still very limited, and
>> our
>>> ability to program them to understand context has been even more limited.
>>> Yet once one collects massive amounts of data, as Roy has done, the use
>> of
>>> computers becomes virtually unavoidable. My point about Halliday's
>> research
>>> was that he drew not only on his speaker/hearer's intuitions, he also
>> drew
>>> on what was available to him as a participant interacting intimately with
>>> the child speaker. Roy of course had the same type of interactions, but
>>> rather than build on these he chose instead the strategy of massive data
>>> collection. There is, presumably as a consequence of, apparently no
>>> attention to semantics in Roy's analysis - not that one would expect to
>> find
>>> the child showing an understanding of concepts, but knowing something of
>> the
>>> adults' interpretations of his words in context would surely be
>> tremendously
>>> helpful in understanding the acquisition process.
>>> I assume that the fact that in his presentation Roy could provide only
>>> sound bites of the child's approximations to "water" indicates that his
>>> system for automated analysis of the videos was not able to parse those
>>> events. Was the computer able to judge these utterances to be tokens of a
>>> single type? Or did humans still need to go through the recordings to
>> make
>>> such judgments? If the latter, then it seems to me that the accumulation
>> of
>>> massive amounts of data made the researchers' task more difficult, not
>>> easier, and it is not clear to me what the benefit is of Roy's approach.
>>> Martin __________________________________________
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