Thursday, February 7, 2008

On Icicles and language

So tonight I am writing a paper regarding the language development of 18-24 month olds. After having difficulty finding anyone I know with a 2 year old (everyone's child seems to be older or an infant!) I decided to to my analysis on a home video of my brother Greg when he was two, circa 1988 (my mom's haircut is hillarious.)

I've had a great time writing this paper because its forced me to look at really what stage Greg was in at the time by looking at his language alone, instead of just thinking that his speech was the most adorable thing ever.

An excerpt:

When mom interacted with Greg, it was clear that they had certain nicknames for things that they were doing. The tinsel that they were putting on the tree was called “icicles” which Greg seemed to understand was the shiny stuff he was attempting to put on the Christmas tree. I wondered if he knew where the nickname came from – the tree resembled one coated in ice when the “icicles” were all applied – and I wonder if he thought they resembled each other at all, because there were big icicles outside of the window hanging from the eave of the roof. It was clear, however, that his meaning of icicles as being the silver, thin tinsel they were putting on the tree was a little less than concrete a few minutes later. Greg opened a box of ornament hooks, spilling them onto the floor, heaping them into a pile and then dropping them from above his head in front of him. These ornament hooks were silver like the tinsel – and when asked what he was doing, he said “Look icicles!” at that time, mom corrected him and said, “No, honey, those are hooks for the ornaments.” “Icicles,” Greg said back. Mom slyly scooped up the pile of ornament hooks and returned with some more tinsel. “Lets put more of these icicles on the tree,” mom said, “and daddy will attach the hooks later.” This, to me, was an example of the “No, that’s not a kitty!” example given in class – the subtle dissonance (a la Piaget) and learning that must have been going on for Greg all the time at that age.
What was also interesting is that at the same time I was writing this paper, I came across an article that has to do with language development of toddlers that is quite amazing.
ScienceDaily (2008-02-04) -- Researchers are studying a ground-breaking theory that young children are able to learn large groups of words rapidly by data-mining. Their theory, which they have explored with 12- and 14-month-olds, takes a radically different approach to the accepted view that young children learn words one at a time -- something they do remarkably well by the age of 2 but not so well before that.
I shared this article with the class and the teacher thanked me for it. Maybe she'll mention something about it in class tomorrow. Anyway, that's all for now, back to the paper.

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