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Séminaire du département Parole et Cognition du 21/09/2017 à 14h00


The role of attention in early language acquisition

Intervenant : Mathilde Fort , Post-doctoral fellow, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain & Gipsa-lab, Grenoble

Lieu : Salle Chartreuse (D1121), Batiment Ampère, 2ème étage, GIPSA-Lab; 11 rue des mathématiques, Saint Martin d'Hères


Résumé :

Following the seminal work of Saffran, Aslin and Newport (1996), a wide range of studies have revealed the power of the infant brain to extract regularities from the speech signal through statistical learning, the implicit learning of regularities present in the speech input. However, this approach does not provide a fully satisfactory account of how infants learn language. The speech input is so multidimensional that infants need to pinpoint, by attentional mechanisms, the appropriate subset of dimensions relevant for computing statistics. For example, to learn the words of a language, who speaks is not fundamental, but the phonemes involved are. My research project thus investigates how the maturation of attention constrains infants’ language learning.

One way of investigating this question is to assess the role visual attention strategies on how infants explore talking faces. In daily face-to-face communication, infants need to orient their attention to the relevant part of talking faces (eyes, mouth) as a function of the relevance of each source of information (emotional & prosodic: eyes region; speech: mouth region) over time. First, using eye-tracking measures, I study how one attentional strategy (e.g., focusing on the mouth of the speaker) impacts how infants can detect and anticipate information coming from the rest of the face, and whether this ability relates to lexical development. Second, using entropy measures, I study how specific language exposure (namely, early bilingualism) sculpts mechanisms of attention and cognitive control in infants, when exploring talking faces. I conclude this talk by identifying the new questions and tools necessary to further investigate this question.

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