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

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.

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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