ERIC Number: EJ1043860
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Abstractor: As Provided
Markers of Topical Discourse in Child-Directed Speech
Rohde, Hannah; Frank, Michael C.
Cognitive Science, v38 n8 p1634-1661 Nov-Dec 2014
Although the language we encounter is typically embedded in rich discourse contexts, many existing models of processing focus largely on phenomena that occur sentence-internally. Similarly, most work on children's language learning does not consider how information can accumulate as a discourse progresses. Research in pragmatics, however, points to ways in which each subsequent utterance provides new opportunities for listeners to infer speaker meaning. Such inferences allow the listener to build up a representation of the speakers' intended topic and more generally to identify relationships, structures, and messages that extend across multiple utterances. We address this issue by analyzing a video corpus of child-caregiver interactions. We use topic continuity as an index of discourse structure, examining how caregivers introduce and discuss objects across utterances. For the analysis, utterances are grouped into topical discourse sequences using three annotation strategies: raw annotations of speakers' referents, the output of a model that groups utterances based on those annotations, and the judgments of human coders. We analyze how the lexical, syntactic, and social properties of caregiver-child interaction change over the course of a sequence of topically related utterances. Our findings suggest that many cues used to signal topicality in adult discourse are also available in child-directed speech.
Descriptors: Caregiver Child Relationship, Discourse Analysis, Lexicology, Semantics, Social Influences, Interaction, Cues, Language Acquisition, Child Language, Bayesian Statistics
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
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