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Status-based preference of varieties in bidialectal kindergarteners: an experimental study

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Until about 1985, apart from traditional dialectological research, the study of Hungarian in Hungary focused mostly on the Codified Standard Hungarian variety, whose speakers are powerful in social but not in numerical terms. Sociolinguistic research since 1985 has now resulted in a program which embraces not only the 10 million (largely monolingual) Hungarians in Hungary proper, but also the 3 million bi- or multilingual minority Hungarians in the seven neighboring countries (kin-states). This program was initiated by researchers of the Department of Sociolinguistics in the Linguistics Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. This paper offers linguists who do not read Hungarian an overview of this research carried out between 1985 and 2022.
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Listeners are sensitive to the frequency at which speakers produce sociolinguistic features in utterances, reflected in their social evaluations of those speakers. Previous work also illustrates that a speaker’s perceived gender can influence how their linguistic production is processed, perceived, and discussed. However, little is known about how speaker gender can shape the effect of variant frequency on social evaluations. Employing the sociolinguistic variable ING, a matched-guise task was conducted to compare listeners’ evaluations of ten speakers producing varying proportions ING’s variants, investigating whether listeners evaluate men and women differently for using - in at the same rates of production. Findings show that speakers’ greater usage of the - in variant yields more negative evaluations from listeners, but this trend did not differ between different speaker genders. Rather, differences in evaluations of individual speakers persist across and within gendered categories, bearing implications for notions of binary gender and single-speaker matched-guise paradigms.
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A gyermekek nyelvi attitűdjének kutatása fontos adalékokkal szolgálhat az anyanyelvi nevelés, a nyelvi érzékenyítés témaköréhez. A tanulmány a nyelvi attitűd fogalmának kialakulását, a nyelvi attitűd kutatására használt tudományos módszereket mutatja be, hangsúlyt fektetve a gyermekek nyelvi attitűdjére irányuló vizsgálatokra. A nyelvi attitűd fogalmának kialakulása az 1960-as évekre datálható, kutatása pedig az 1970-es években vált népszerűvé. A nyelvi attitűdök vizsgálatának fő feladata az adatközlők véleményének, hozzáállásának feltárása. A kutatáshoz különféle direkt és indirekt módszerek használhatók, melyek közül az egyik legnépszerűbb az úgynevezett ügynökmódszer. Ezt a módszert gyermekekkel végzett mérésekre is adaptálták. Bár a nyelvi attitűdök kutatása jelen van a hazai tudományosságban, az óvodás és kisiskoláskorú gyermekek nyelvi attitűdje kevéssé kutatott téma.
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Past research finds that monolingual and bilingual children prefer native speakers to individuals who speak in unfamiliar foreign languages or accents. Do children in bilingual contexts socially distinguish among familiar languages and accents and, if so, how do their social preferences based on language and accent compare? The current experiments tested whether 5- to 7-year-olds in two bilingual contexts in the United States demonstrate social preferences among the languages and accents that are present in their social environments. We compared children's preferences based on language (i.e., English vs. their other native language) and their preferences based on accent (i.e., English with a native accent vs. English with a non-native [yet familiar] accent). In Experiment 1, children attending a French immersion school demonstrated no preference between English and French speakers but preferred American-accented English to French-accented English. In Experiment 2, bilingual Korean American children demonstrated no preference between English and Korean speakers but preferred American-accented English to Korean-accented English. Across studies, bilingual children's preferences based on accent (i.e., American-accented English over French- or Korean-accented English) were not related to their own language dominance. These results suggest that children from diverse linguistic backgrounds demonstrate social preferences for native-accented speakers. Implications for understanding the potential relation between social reasoning and language acquisition are discussed.
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The linguistic diversity enduring beyond institutional pressures and social prejudices against non-standard dialects questions the social forces influencing language maintenance across generations and how children contribute to this process. Children encounter multi-dialectal interactions in their early environment, and increasing evidence shows that the acquisition of sociolinguistic variation is not a side issue but an inherent part of the general acquisition process. Despite these recent advances in sociolinguistic acquisition, children's sociolinguistic uses remain under-studied in relation to peer social networks and the ability to use dialect for identity purposes. Our study focused on a grammatical sociolinguistic variable consisting of the alternation between a regional and a standard variant of the third person object pronoun in French. The regional variant is a remnant of the Francoprovençal language and its usage by adults is strongly associated with local identity in the French Alps. We described, using questionnaires, the social networks of 117 10–11 year-old girls and boys living in the same restricted rural area. Thirteen native target children (7 girls and 6 boys) were selected from the sample, as well as 39 same-sex friends chosen according to their place of birth (native vs. non-native) and the duration of their friendship with the targets (number of years they have known each other). The target children were recorded during spontaneous dyadic conversations during free play at school with each category of friends. Target boys, but not girls, used the regional variant significantly more frequently with their long-term native friends than with their non-native friends. This adjustment mirrored their partners' uses. Moreover, with long-term native friends, boys used the regional variant twice as frequently as girls. Boys appeared thus as key actors in the maintenance and the diffusion of regional cues in local social networks.
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Whether social uses of language, in concert with their acquisition, are driven by the awareness of the social value assigned to linguistic variants remains unanswered. The present study examines how 185 French native speakers, aged from 2 to 6 years from different social backgrounds, produce and evaluate a wellknown French phonological alternation, the liaison: obligatory liaisons, which are categorical and do not vary sociolinguistically for adults, and variable liaisons, which are a sociolinguistic variable and are more frequently produced by higher-class adults. Different developmental and social patterns were found for obligatory and variable liaisons. Children’s productions of obligatory liaisons were related to their judgments when 3–4 years old, regardless of the children’s social backgrounds. However, a developmental gap was observed between higherand lower-class children that appeared earlier in production than in evaluation. For variable liaisons, children’s productions were related to their judgments, irrespective of their social backgrounds, at 4–5 years. Social differences appeared in both children’s productions and judgments a year later. Although the ability to evaluate different linguistic forms emerges at an early developmental stage, the awareness of the social value of the variants does not seem to precede the ability to select the standard varieties in formal situations.
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Adults evaluate others based on their speech, yet little is known of the developmental trajectory by which accent attitudes are acquired. Here we investigate the development of American children's attitudes about Northern- and Southern-accented American English. Children in Illinois (the "North") and Tennessee (the "South") evaluated the social desirability, personality characteristics, and geographic origins of Northern- and Southern-accented individuals. Five- to 6-year-old children in Illinois preferred the Northern-accented speakers as potential friends, yet did not demonstrate knowledge of any stereotypes about the different groups; 5-6-year-old children in Tennessee did not show a preference towards either type of speaker. Nine- to 10-year-old children in both Illinois and Tennessee evaluated the Northern-accented individuals as sounding "smarter" and "in charge", and the Southern-accented individuals as sounding "nicer." Thus, older children endorse similar stereotypes to those observed in adulthood. These accent attitudes develop in parallel across children in different regions and reflect both positive and negative assessments of a child's own group.
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Women use linguistic forms associated with the prestige standard more frequently than men. One reason for this is that working-class speech has favourable connotations for male speakers. Favourable attitudes to non-standard speech are not normally expressed, however, and emerge only in inaccurate self-evaluation test responses. Patterns of sex differentiation deviating from the norm indicate that a linguistic change is taking place: standard forms are introduced by middle-class women, non-standard forms by working-class men. (Sociolinguistic variation; linguistic change; women's and men's speech; contextual styles; social class; British English.)
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The regular use of two languages by bilingual individuals has been shown to have a broad impact on language and cognitive functioning. In this monograph, we consider four aspects of this influence. In the first section, we examine differences between mono-linguals and bilinguals in children's acquisition of language and adults' linguistic processing, particularly in terms of lexical retrieval. Children learning two languages from birth follow the same milestones for language acquisition as mono-linguals do (first words, first use of grammar) but may use different strategies for language acquisition, and they generally have a smaller vocabulary in each language than do monolin-gual children learning only a single language. Adult bilinguals typically take longer to retrieve individual words than monolin-guals do, and they generate fewer words when asked to satisfy a constraint such as category membership or initial letter. In the second section, we consider the impact of bilingualism on nonverbal cognitive processing in both children and adults. The primary effect in this case is the enhancement of executive control functions in bilinguals. On tasks that require inhibition of distract-ing information, switching between tasks, or holding information in mind while performing a task, bilinguals of all ages outperform comparable monolinguals. A plausible reason is that bilinguals recruit control processes to manage their ongoing linguistic per-formance and that these control processes become enhanced for other unrelated aspects of cognitive processing. Preliminary evi-dence also suggests that the executive control advantage may even mitigate cognitive decline in older age and contribute to cognitive reserve, which in turn may postpone Alzheimer's disease. In the third section, we describe the brain networks that are responsible for language processing in bilinguals and demon-strate their involvement in nonverbal executive control for bilinguals. We begin by reviewing neuroimaging research that identifies the networks used for various nonverbal executive control tasks in the literature. These networks are used as a ref-erence point to interpret the way in which bilinguals perform both verbal and nonverbal control tasks. The results show that bilinguals manage attention to their two language systems using the same networks that are used by monolinguals performing nonverbal tasks. In the fourth section, we discuss the special circumstances that surround the referral of bilingual children (e.g., language delays) and adults (e.g., stroke) for clinical intervention. These referrals are typically based on standardized assessments that use normative data from monolingual populations, such as vocabulary size and lexical retrieval. As we have seen, however, these measures are often different for bilinguals, both for children and adults. We discuss the implications of these linguistic differences for standardized test performance and clinical approaches. We conclude by considering some questions that have important public policy implications. What are the pros and cons of French or Spanish immersion educational programs, for example? Also, if bilingualism confers advantages in certain respects, how about three languages—do the benefits increase? In the healthcare field, how can current knowledge help in the treatment of bilingual aphasia patients following stroke? Given the recent increase in bilingualism as a research topic, answers to these and other related questions should be available in the near future.
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This article presents results from a study of language attitudes and linguistic behaviour among adolescents of both sexes in a rural community in Denmark. The study concludes that the traditional pattern of boys/men speaking in a significantly more non-standard way than girls/women is reproduced in the present context, and in the qualitative attitude-questionnaire the male informants express more genuinely positive attitudes to the language and culture of the local community than the female informants. These findings are then related to the predominant frameworks of gender-differentiated speech behaviour within sociolinguistics, and it is argued that the existing explanations do not adequately account for the differences recorded in this study. It is suggested that a reconsideration of social identity theory and the constitution of male and female identity may add an important dimension to the traditional sociolinguistic approaches.
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This study reports on an experiment with twenty preschool children (3;1–4;7) in York, UK to investigate the earliest stage of children's socioperceptual development. The children discriminate between different groups of speakers based on their pronunciation of phonological regional variables diagnostic of the North and South of England. An improvement across the age range uncovers a developmental stage when children are able to interpret variation as socially meaningful. This is comparable with developments in sociolinguistic production during the preschool years, as previous studies have found. Three measures associated with linguistic input (children's age and gender, local versus nonlocal parents) have an impact on the children's performance. The results are interpreted through an exemplar theoretic account, highlighting the role of input and the combined storing and accessing of both linguistic and social information.
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Research demonstrates that young infants attend to the indexical characteristics of speakers, including age, gender, and ethnicity, and that the relationship between language and ethnicity is intuitive among older children. However, little research has examined whether infants, within the first year, are sensitive to the co‐occurrences of ethnicity and language. In this paper, we demonstrate that by 11 months of age, infants hold language‐dependent expectations regarding speaker ethnicity. Specifically, 11‐month‐old English‐learning Caucasian infants looked more to Asian versus Caucasian faces when hearing Cantonese versus English (Studies 1 and 3), but did not look more to Asian versus Caucasian faces when paired with Spanish (Study 2), making it unlikely that they held a general expectation that unfamiliar languages pair with unfamiliar faces. Moreover, infants who had regular exposure to one or more significant non‐Caucasian individuals showed this pattern more strongly (Study 3). Given that infants tested were raised in a multilingual metropolitan area—which includes a Caucasian population speaking many languages, but seldom Cantonese, as well as a sizeable Asian population speaking both Cantonese and English—these results are most parsimoniously explained by infants having learned specific language–ethnicity associations based on those individuals they encountered in their environment.
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Children in Austria are exposed to a large amount of variation within the German language. Most children grow up with a local dialect, German standard language and ‘intermediate’ varieties summarized as ‘Umgangssprache’. Using an ABX design, this study analyses when Austrian children are able to discriminate native varieties of their L1 German (standard German vs local dialect). The results show children’s early ability to register differences and similarities on an across-speaker level when sentences are held constant (i.e. to discriminate translation equivalents in the two varieties) and a later, rather sudden emergence of more abstract categories of the varieties, which encompass different phonological and lexical variables and enable children to match sentences which also differ lexically. In sum, discrimination ability seems to be relatively stable and consistent at the age of 8/9. Other than age, the mother’s educational background, language variation at home and the immediate sociolinguistic setting (urban/rural) predict children’s discrimination performance.
Article
This study examines infant’s attention to dialect differences following Nazzi et al.’s [J. Mem. Lang., 43, 1–19 (2000)] finding that American 5‐month‐olds can discriminate British‐ and American‐English. Using a serial preference task, 48 6‐month‐old Australian and American infants heard sentence sets spoken in Australian‐ and American‐English. Results showed that at 6 months, American infants listen longer to Australian than American sentences, but Australian infants show no preference. By 8 months, American infants also show no preference. The developmental lag suggests Australian infants have more exposure to the American dialect (e.g., television programs) than American infants to the Australian dialect. Thus, it is predicted, with less linguistic experience, Australian 3‐month‐olds will show a dialect preference comparable to American 6‐month‐olds. Data from 14 3‐month‐olds support this hypothesis; moreover, they also listen longer to Australian than American sentences. Together the results imply that the ability to generalize across two dialects is a function of experience, and that, with age, infants filter out irrelevant phonetic information and cluster American and Australian dialects into the same group. Future directions of this study are discussed as are the reasons why Australian English is the dialect of preference for infants from both dialect environments.
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This paper reports the findings of a study on the preferences and attitudes held by 87 kindergarten and first grade children toward Hawaii Creole English (HCE) and standard English (SE). The subjects were students at two elementary schools in urban Honolulu, one located in one of the least desirable, industrial areas of the city, the other in a more residential neighborhood, inhabited by members of a professional class. The children in the latter school preferred English, as did the first graders in the former. However, the younger children in the lower socio-economic school expressed a preference for, and had positive attitudes toward, HCE. These findings indicate that a switch by speakers of Hawaii Creole English in linguistic preferences and attitudes occurs in the first two grades of school. Tests of fluency in both languages revealed that the children from the higher socio-economic school were more competent in SE than the other children. However, with the exception of the younger children in the lower socio-economic school, all the subjects displayed approximately equal fluency in HCE.
Article
This study, using the matched‐guise technique, was designed (a) to determine how West Welsh pre‐adolescents would react to Welsh speakers reading a passage of prose in one or other of three language varieties (R.P. English [EE] vs. Welsh‐accented English [EW] vs. Welsh [WW]), and (b) to examine what effect language of testing (English vs. Welsh) might have on children's social evaluations of speech styles. The results showed that EW was judged less good and more snobbish than WW while the former was rated as less strong than EE; no differences accrued between EE and WW. Two interaction effects emerged showing that differences arose in the way subjects evaluated EW depending on the language of testing. He was rated as more selfish than either EE or WW when the language of instructions and the scales were in Welsh and less intelligent than both of them when the testing situation was in English. The results are discussed in relation to previous matched‐guise research in Wales and their methodological implications more generally underscored.
Article
Monolingual English-speaking children in the United States express social preferences for speakers of their native language with a native accent. Here we explore the nature of children's language-based social preferences through research with children in South Africa, a multilingual nation. Like children in the United States, Xhosa South African children preferred speakers of their first language (Xhosa) to speakers of a foreign language (French). Thus, social preferences based on language are observed not only among children with limited exposure to cultural and linguistic variation but also among children living in a diverse linguistic environment. Moreover, Xhosa children attending school in English expressed social preferences for speakers of English over speakers of Xhosa, even when tested by a Xhosa-speaking experimenter. Thus, children's language-based social preferences do not depend exclusively on preferences for more familiar or intelligible speech but also extend to preferences for speech that may convey higher status in the child's society.
Article
Altogether 329 children participated in four longitudinal studies of specific and general language performance cumulatively from 1;1 to 6;10. Data were drawn from age-appropriate maternal questionnaires, maternal interviews, teacher reports, experimenter assessments and transcripts of children’s own spontaneous speech. Language performance at each age and stability of individual differences across age in girls and boys were assessed separately and together. Across age, including the important transition from preschool to school, across multiple tests at each age and across multiple reporters, children showed moderate to strong stability of individual differences; girls and boys alike were stable. In the second through fifth years, but not before or after, girls consistently outperformed boys in multiple specific and general measures of language.
Article
This study is concerned with the acquisition of social awareness of language differences in preschool children, particularly their awareness of the differences between black and standard English (BE and SE). Awareness is defined as a type of sociolinguistic perception involving three related abilities: (1) discrimination (the ability to discriminate between BE and SE solely on the basis of linguistic variables), (2) categorization (the ability to categorize people according to race on the basis of their speech), and (3) attitude (the expression of attitudes and value judgments vis-a-vis representative speakers of each variety). Three tasks were constructed to investigate these three aspects. The effects of group, age, and sex were also examined. The children were drawn from two contrasting populations: sample A consisted of 90 upper middle class urban/suburban white children attending a private nursery school and a private day school kindergarten; sample B comprised 46 lower class semi-rural black children in a public day care center and a public kindergarten. The findings revealed that preschool children do discriminate, categorize and express specific attitudes toward BE and SE. In all tasks, age and group were the most significant variables. (Author/CFM)
Article
Examines the bases of social psychological research. While the laboratory research model is dominant, a more broadly defined "experimental" approach is proposed. The social, individual, and interindividual aspects of the field are reviewed. Discussion focuses on bridging the gap between social conduct and the social context in which it occurs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Natascha Müller's proposal to view transfer as a relief strategy used by bilingual learners to cope with problematic input is very interesting and has far-reaching consequences for theories of bilingual language acquisition. The author makes a strong case for the fact that bilingual children transfer parameter values from the language presenting unambiguous input to the other “puzzling language”. In what follows, I will not question the main thrust of her argument. Rather I will return to the definitions that have been proposed for transfer in the literature and show that they are usually too broad. I will then propose that anyone interested in studying transfer must take into account the language mode the language learner or bilingual subject is in when being studied, and I will end by showing the consequences that this may have if it is not done. Natascha Müller's main argument is not affected by the language mode factor but the quantitative difference she finds between monolingual and bilingual children could be.
Article
In the Italian public school system, local dialects are explicitly discouraged and children are pressured to master standard Italian. In this study, 95 southern Italian children were given a series of tasks to determine their level of dialect production and their attitudes toward their local dialect. Production of dialect decreases sharply from the first to the third grade, but then tends to stabilize, with a slight increase in dialect use by fourth and fifth grade boys. Hence the schools have not been entirely successful in eradicating dialect. However, attitude measures indicate that by the third grade children prefer Italian over the dialect at close to the 100% level. The schools have placed many children in a conflict situation, in which they have learned negative attitudes toward their own code but cannot completely master standard Italian. Sex differences may be related to a tendency to view dialect as more masculine. Implications of this study for bidialectical school programs in Italy and the United States are discussed.
Article
This chapter focuses on sociolinguistic study of New York city. Linguistic variable (r) is a social differentiator in all levels of New York city speech and that rapid and anonymous speech events could be used as the basis for a systematic study of language. The advertising and price policies of the stores are very clearly stratified. Perhaps no other element of class behavior is so sharply differentiated in New York city as that of the newspaper which people read; many surveys have shown that the Daily News is the paper read first and foremost by working-class people, while the New York Times draws its readership from the middle class. The principal stratifying effect upon the employees is the prestige of the store, and the working conditions. Wages do not stratify the employees in the same order. The normal approach to a survey of department store employees requires that one enumerate the sales people of each store, draw random samples in each store, make appointments to speak with each employee at home, interview the respondents, then segregate the native New Yorkers, analyze and resample the nonrespondents, and so on.
Article
Segmental features of child-directed speech (CDS) were studied in a corpus drawn from thirty-nine mothers living in Tyneside, England. Focus was on the phonetic variants used for (t) in word-medial and word-final prevocalic contexts since it is known that these variants display clear sociolinguistic patterning in the adult community. Variant usage in CDS was found to differ markedly from that in interadult speech. Effects were also found with respect to the age and gender of the children being addressed. Speech to girls generally contained more standard variants than speech to boys, which, by contrast, contained higher rates of vernacular variants. The differentiation by gender was most apparent for the youngest children. The findings are assessed in comparison to other studies of CDS. It has previously been claimed that modifications made in the CDS register help children to learn linguistic structures and also to learn that speech is a social activity. Our findings suggest that CDS may play an additional role, providing boys and girls as young as 2;0 with differential opportunities to learn the social-indexical values of sociolinguistic variables.
Article
It is well established that speakers accommodate in speech production. Recent work has shown a similar effect in perception—speech perception is affected by a listener’s beliefs about the speaker. In this paper, we explore the consequences of such perceptual accommodation for experiments in speech perception and lexical access. Our interest is whether perceptual accommodation to one speaker—the experimenter who meets participants, for example— might have carry-over effects on participants’ behavior in subsequent tasks that do not directly involve the experimenter’s voice. We explore this possibility by exposing groups of participants to different varieties of English before they participate in experiments involving speech perception and/or lexical access. Our results reveal that the nature of this prior exposure considerably influences participants’ behavior in the tasks. This suggests that the phonetic detail of encountered speech is stored in the lexicon, together with information about the speaker’s regional origin. Subparts of phonetically detailed lexical distributions can then be effectively ‘primed’ by exposure to speakers or lexical items associated with particular dialects. We argue for an exemplar model of lexical representation with both word-level and phoneme-level representations. The consequences of cross-dialectal priming vary, depending on whether tasks involve primarily word-level or phoneme-level access.
Article
Monolingual and bilingual French-Canadian children listened to tape recordings of children's voices, some in English, some in French, and rated each speaker's personality on 15 traits. Differences between the ratings assigned French and English voices by the subgroups were interpreted as indicative of differences in stereotyped reactions to French and English Canadians.
Article
Regarding language as an identifying feature of a national or cultural group, English and French students were asked to evaluate English-speaking and French-speaking speakers. Bilinguists were used who recorded passages in both French and English. Ss rated on the basis of traits related to desirability in regard to friendship, e.g., dependability, intelligence, character, etc. As expected, English students rated those speaking in English more favorably; unexpectedly, so did the French students. The findings are interpreted in the light of the effect of cultural stereotypes.
Article
Although infants begin to encode and track novel words in fluent speech by 7.5 months, their ability to recognize words is somewhat limited at this stage. In particular, when the surface form of a word is altered, by changing the gender or affective prosody of the speaker, infants begin to falter at spoken word recognition. Given that natural speech is replete with variability, only some of which determines the meaning of a word, it remains unclear how infants might ever overcome the effects of surface variability without appealing to meaning. In the current set of experiments, consequences of high and low variability are examined in preverbal infants. The source of variability, vocal affect, is a common property of infant-directed speech with which young learners have to contend. Across a series of four experiments, infants' abilities to recognize repeated encounters of words, as well as to reject similar-sounding words, are investigated in the context of high and low affective variation. Results point to positive consequences of affective variation, both in creating generalizable memory representations for words, but also in establishing phonologically precise memories for words. Conversely, low variability appears to degrade word recognition on both fronts, compromising infants' abilities to generalize across different affective forms of a word and to detect similar-sounding items. Findings are discussed in the context of principles of categorization that may potentiate the early growth of a lexicon.
Article
What leads humans to divide the social world into groups, preferring their own group and disfavoring others? Experiments with infants and young children suggest these tendencies are based on predispositions that emerge early in life and depend, in part, on natural language. Young infants prefer to look at a person who previously spoke their native language. Older infants preferentially accept toys from native-language speakers, and preschool children preferentially select native-language speakers as friends. Variations in accent are sufficient to evoke these social preferences, which are observed in infants before they produce or comprehend speech and are exhibited by children even when they comprehend the foreign-accented speech. Early-developing preferences for native-language speakers may serve as a foundation for later-developing preferences and conflicts among social groups. • cognitive development
Egy speciális ügynökvizsgálatról [A special Matched-Guise Experiment
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Óvodások és kisiskolások nyelvi ideológiái [Kindergarteners' and primary school children's language ideologies
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