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Uh and Um May Help Children Learn Language

Do you consider yourself well spoken?  Turns out you’re not.  But nobody is so don’t take it personal.  Accept it and it will help you teach little ones to talk.  It’s interesting that they figured this out not just to make it easier to teach speech to kids, but also what it says about our real speech patterns as opposed to how we think we talk.

Baby
paparutzi/Flickr

Discovery.com – If a parent says, “Come look at thee, uh, hummingbird,” the disfluency “thee” and “uh” indicate something novel or important will follow.

Adults are known to pick up on these lingual cues as well.

Such communication helps listeners clarify what the speaker intends. Humans use other means to gather meaning from speech, including visual cues, pointing and eye contact to discern verbal messages, say researchers.

For example, one trial presented a ball and stated, “I see the ball!” while another would repeat something along the lines of “I see thee, uh, ball!” New objects with unfamiliar names such as a “Tibble” and “Gorp” were used, too.

An eye tracking machine recorded the children’s visual attention toward the screen and objects.

The question that comes to my mind is, have people always used ums, and uhhs so prevalently?  Maybe I assumed that we were less concerned with how we talk to each other these days than in times past.  If we are less well spoken then what did language in the past have that would cue a person to listen more intently?  OR was the speech better and therefore people listened with greater concentration due to an engaging speaker?  I know that this Discovery Channel article is aimed at how children learn, but they only learn by listening to adults correct?

So even when you are talking with your friends and holding a baby, they are learning from you.  Kind of scary when you think about babies that are in violent households.

Ok now I am just ranting.  Let’s get on with the rest of the article.

Since researchers presented both new and familiar objects with and without speech disfluencies, they were able to get a better idea of what was causing the increased attention in children.

They found that children not only looked more frequently at the objects described using disfluencies, but they spent more time looking at the object as well.

Although more research needs to be done, the group concluded that children’s increased attention to objects with disfluencies is unlikely to only occur when children are presented with new objects because their novelty would have worn off with repeated exposure through trials.

Instead, it seems as if the speech patterns cue kids’ attention to what’s important or significant in the conversation.

via Uh and Um May Help Children Learn Language : Discovery News.

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