Empirical paradigms in developmental psycholinguistics  [presentation, ppt, 377 kB]

Schnell Z.
University of Pécs, Institute of Psychology, Pécs, Hungary

The presentation intends to give an overview of the observational and experimental methods in today’s psycholinguistics, regarding language acquisition as a life-long experience from fetus to adolescent and even beyond. It also offers an informative guide to the history and evolution of empirical, applied psycholinguistic techniques, aiming to describe background mechanisms of language processing, perception, production, and acquisition, giving us an insight into fetal sensitivity to speech input, and to the intricacies of language processing both in the preverbal and in the verbal stages (Karmiloff & Karmiloff-Smith, 2002). The new paradigms introduced by the cognitive turn of the 1960’s affected research in the study of language and the mind, bringing on a revolutionary change in experimental techniques, due to which the focus of attention shifted from production to comprehension. The emerging innovative research methods allow us to investigate the multi-level process of language use and acquisition from new perspectives, and examine the development which begins during intrauterine life (Gleason & Ratner, 1998). The new findings also contribute to the resolution of long-standing debates in the discipline, such as the primacy of nature vs. nurture, or that of blind imitation vs. rule application. In the preverbal period children actively communicate through proto-communicative acts and through different actions (e.g. joint attention, following adults’ gaze) (Tomasello, 2002), which serve as important instances of active participation in social settings. Through such interpersonal interactions children begin their journey of socialization, in which language plays a crucial, if not the most important role. The mapping of the intricacies of the experimental paradigms prevalent in today’s psycholinguistic research, and the understanding of the underlying mechanisms that fuel language acquisition may shed light on the cognitive strategies that are responsible for the construction, comprehension and production of language at all stages of our ontogenetic development