For those interested in how children acquire language – and how social environments can influence its emergence – there’s hardly a more fascinating place to start than with Deb Roy’s Ted talk, The Birth of a Word.
This short, captivating video highlights his amazing experiment.
With microphones and cameras hidden throughout his home, Deb Roy, Director of the Laboratory for Social Machines at MIT and Chief Media Scientist of Twitter, decided to conduct a longitudinal study – on his child.
Basically, Roy set out to see if he and his team could discover patterns in how his newborn son would come to learn a language. For three years, and with over ninety-thousand hours of recorded video, they tried to ascertain if there were any patters to this development. (As he likes to joke, it’s gotta be the most extensive home video collection every put together. Ha!)
In a particularly captivating moment, spanning many months, you can actually hear his son trying to speak the word “water”. First, nothing more than mere mumblings, indiscernible attempts at language, you can slowly hear the iterations as he compiles them in a time-lapse pastiche – until, eventually, his son arrives at a clearly articulated and easily understood word, “water”.
Watch the video here. It’s incredible. Then, share your thoughts.
Some questions to consider:
– Would you conduct an experiment like this in your home?
– Is it truly a natural, scientific experiment?
– Have you observed how your child is learning language?
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