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


I think your last paragraph speaks to a legitimate problem.  Native speakers
can pick up intended words even when they are distorted by colds,
laryngitis, high winds, mouthfuls of icecream etc. To human analyse that
much data would take a platoon of research assistants. And usually
caregivers will attribute a "word" to a child when it is a very poor
approximation but at an appropriate occasion and then consistenly raise the
ante for recognition. That is individualised intuition with one's own child.
(But you know this of course--psycholinguistic old hat.)
Bear with me, since in South Africa, I have only been able to watch 4
minutes so far--it won't download. I am just following your logic.

On 19 March 2011 18:14, 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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