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

Well it was great viewing, Deb Roy's presentation certainly spurred me to improve my own presentation style. But it didn't test any claim about speech development, and was surely never intended to prove or discover anything about speech development. Except that to do any work in this area you need a vast array of expensive audio-visual and computer equipment and a team of dozens of research assistants. Gone are the days when a hand-held video camera would let you do meaningful research into child development.

Note that this reinforces the major malady of our times: the conception that on one hand there is little individual me with no capacity to do anything except massage my own preferences, and on the other hand the mighty institutions and forces of society with their billion-dollar machines and vast organisations, who decide everything .

But on the other hand, maybe this is just what our science needs. Neuroscience wields the authority it does precisely because you need multi-billion dollar machines and a large staff to do neuroscience at all. It is prestigious precisely because it is so prohibitively expensive to do. Maybe if people told their Deans that they need a Deb Roy-style lab to do research on child development we would actually raise the status of child development from the basement level it now occupies?


Lois Holzman wrote:
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
Chair, Global Outreach for UX (www.allstars.org/ux)
tel. 212.941.8906 ext. 324
fax 718.797.3966

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:

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.

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.
of all, when I read Halliday's work on early language acquisition, it
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
Roy is looking at. I can't even understand, when I am looking at the
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
Obviously videorecording and other techniques of objectification are
for the study of a phenomenon as fleeting as speech. But any
of children's acquisition of language has to make use of the intuitions
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
word, and approximations to it, and what it signifies in a specific
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
of these intuitions. The degree of success with which we have been able
program computers to recognize human speech is still very limited, and
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
computers becomes virtually unavoidable. My point about Halliday's
was that he drew not only on his speaker/hearer's intuitions, he also
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
the child showing an understanding of concepts, but knowing something of
adults' interpretations of his words in context would surely be
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
such judgments? If the latter, then it seems to me that the accumulation
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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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~db=all~content=g932564744
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
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