STEIN alejandra
congresos y reuniones científicas
Quantity, Diversity and Quality of Lexical input to young children. A study in two social groups from Buenos Aires, Argentina
Congreso; CEU Conference on Cognitive Development; 2013
Motivation: to analyze the lexical properties of the linguistic context that children from 2 social groups from Argentina -marginalized-urban neighbourhoods (MU) and middle income families with university education (MI)- are exposed to in daily play, meal and hygiene situations. Theoretical assumptions and previous research: - Differences in the size of children?s vocabularies develop in infancy, mainly as a consequence of the opportunities offered by their environment (Nelson, 1996; Tomasello, 2003; Weizman & Snow, 2001). - At 4 years of age, the size of a child?s vocabulary is determined to a great extent by the number of word tokens and word types that their parents use, and by their parents? use of uncommon (or sophisticated) vocabulary (Weizman & Snow, 2001). - Children?s acquisition of a particular type of sophisticated words, those referred to abstract phe¬nomena, general categories, properties not directly observable, cognitive verbs or verbs of will and emotion, is closely related to the way in which adults use them. Studies have shown that although the quantity of the lexical surroundings differs between families from a same social group, differences between socio-economic groups are marked (Hart & Risley, 1995). - Others studies have shown that a large vocabulary is one of the best predictors of early literacy acquisition (Snow et al 1995) and reading comprehension (Perfetti, 2007) - This relationship between lexical input, a large vocabulary and literacy acquisition points to the importance of studying the lexical environment that young children are exposed to at home. The data: The children and their families Children from 2 different social groups participated in this study: 1) Argentine children from middle income families with university education; 2) Children that live with their families in Buenos Aires in extremely poor communities (?villas de emergencia?). They are mostly migrants from the North of Argentina or from neighbouring countries (Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay). The adults had a low level of literacy (they completed 7 or fewer years of schooling). The data analyzed consists of: 228 hours of spontaneous situations (including play, hygiene, and mealtime situations) recorded in the homes of 19 children (4:5) from urban - marginalized populations and 216 hours of spontaneous situations (play, hygiene, meal) recorded in the homes of 17 children (4:5) from middle-income populations. Each child?s home was recorded for 12 hours. The sample included a) 78,664 interactional turns (children: 36,656; interlocutors: 42,008) recorded in the homes of 17 children from middle income households and b) 78,445 recorded in the homes of 19 children from poor marginalized neighbourhoods (children: 33,549; interlocutors: 44,896). Method: Data was transcribed according to the Code for Human Analysis of Transcripts and analysed using the Computarized Language Analysis, CLAN Program (MacWhinney & Snow, 1985). The analysis considered: a) the quantity and diversity of words heard by the children; b) the quantity of words representing non-observable phenomena corresponding to different grammatical classes: b.1.) Abstract nouns that distinguish between notions that are not observed as physical entities and/or that imply a certain degree of generality, like hyperonyms, such as, injustice, inten¬tion, transport, laziness. b.2.) Adjectives that express an assessment of permanent or temporary properties that refer to cognitive or emotional aspects that are not directly observable in a person or in a phenom¬enon, such as clever, attentive, starving, serious. b.3.) Verbs in which the actor?s intentions are implicit, actions that reflect the internal state of the individual, actions that express influence in interpersonal relationships; attitude verbs; cog¬nitive verbs, verbs of will and emotion. Examples: obtain, avoid, hide, flee. Findings: - Results show significant differences in the input children were exposed to: MI children heard a greater quantity and diversity of words than MU children (see Figures 1 and 2) ANOVA; quantity: F(1, 35) = 4.45, MSE = 45131034, p < .05; diversity: F(1,35) = 7.45, MSE = 453354, p < .01). - Differences in the percentage of words that represented non-observable phenomena in the input children were exposed to in each group were also observed (see figures 2 and 3). - Regarding each grammatical category -nouns, adjectives and verbs-the statistical analysis suggests an association between words referencing non?observable phenomena and the social group (nouns χ²(1) = 133.52, p< .001; Adjectives, χ²(1) = 99.54, p< .001; verbs, χ²(1) = 91.74, p< .001). Discussion - The results of this study show striking differences in the amount and the quality of the lexical input that Argentinean Spanish speaking children from different social groups are exposed to at home. The quantity and the diversity of the lexical input that children from marginalized urban neighbourhoods are exposed to is significantly less than the input in middle income families with university education. As reported by Hart and Risley (1995) in their study of English speaking children from the USA, socio-economic and cultural factors make strong differences in the linguistic surroundings children are exposed to at home. - It is worth noting than the quantity and diversity of the vocabulary children from marginalized urban families are exposed to is half of the average number found in the mothers? sample in the Weizman and Snow study (2001). The difference may be due to the fact that our sample was made up of children who were from more disadvantaged environments and whose mothers had completed, in average, only seven years of school and not twelve as in the Weizman and Snow study (2001). - The lower percentage of words referring to non-observable phenomena in the input at the marginalized urban homes should be, for its relation with reading and writing learning (Weizman & Snow, 2001) specially considered and taken into account in the educational activities included in programs aimed to improve early literacy acquisition in children from disadvantaged contexts.