Relating language input to language processes early in development: using the early language processing task in UK and India

Fibla Reixachs, Laia (2021) Relating language input to language processes early in development: using the early language processing task in UK and India. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Early language development is highly associated with language outcomes and later cognitive abilities. This is why it is crucial to understand the mechanisms that support children’s language acquisition, and the factors that influence it. To date, most studies use indirect measures of language skills. There are a few studies that use direct measures of the processes that support word learning, but they usually focus only on one particular mechanism. Thus, we do not know how these early language processes relate to one another. Moreover, research has shown that a critical factor in early language development is the linguistic environment that children grow up in, particularly, the language input that they are exposed to. However, not many studies relate children’s language environment with their later linguistic abilities, and only a handful do that longitudinally. The present thesis aims to contribute to this body of research by developing an early language task that includes several measures of language processing. This new task is used to measure the relationship between early language input, vocabulary knowledge and language processing at different time points from infancy to toddlerhood. Moreover, it extends this research to an at-risk population of Indian children. Study 1 (Chapter 2) shows the development of the Early Language Processing (ELP) task, a direct measure of language processing that is able to capture different language processes in a sample of UK children. This study includes data from the same sample of children at two time points; when they were 15 to 27-months-old (test), and when they were 28 to 36-months-old (retest). Results show strong developmental effects, as well as individual differences, replicating findings from previous literature. We also find positive relationships between ELP and other well established measures of vocabulary knowledge. In Study 2 (Chapter 3), we investigate the relationship between early language input in both infancy and toddlerhood (6 and 18 months of age), and language processing abilities measured with ELP. We find relationships between language input and language processing that suggest that children might benefit from different aspects of input at different ages. Furthermore, children seem to benefit from amount of adult words and from conversational experience in different ways, depending on the process measured by ELP. In Study 3 (Chapter 4), we administer the ELP task to an at-risk sample of children based in India varying in socio-economic status (SES), from similar ages to our sample collected in the UK. We successfully translate and adapt the task to a different language and population. Our findings show that only older Indian children from higher SES show similar looking patterns to those seen in the UK sample. Study 4 (Chapter 5) relates Indian children language input measures collected in their homes, to their ELP measures. Our results show different relationships between language input and language processes across ages and SES, and highlight the importance of collecting data from understudied populations using multiple measures. Overall, the data presented in this thesis contributes to research in language development by creating a new early measure of language processing abilities, and using it to relate children’s early language experiences with their language skills. Importantly, we expand this research to a new population in rural India, adding data from understudied settings to our knowledge of the processes that support word learning. Our results set the stage for future work to measure how early language processes predict long-term language and cognitive abilities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2022 14:39
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2022 14:39


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