Tiny Toes in conjunction with Manchester University – dedicated to research into early language development.
As part of my PhD project, I have been visiting Tiny Toes to investigate children’s language development. I am most interested in how children stop mis-using particular words in past-tense (e.g., “I builded a house!” “I goed over there” and “I hitted the ball”) and eventually use these words in the same way that adults would (i.e., built, went, hit).
WHAT DID WE DO?
Children took part in a fun game that also investigated their language skills: each child saw cartoons of animals doing funny things (e.g., a duck dancing) that was described with a new word (e.g., “the duck is gorping”). I then asked the child what this animal did yesterday so that I could see how the new word was used in past-tense. We used lots of new, made up words (e.g., gorping, asking, fleeping, splinging) so that we can see what makes some verbs more likely to be (mis)used with “-ed” in their past-tense form.
WHY DID WE DO THIS?
We believe that children will be more likely to use some verbs with –ed based on their similarity with existing (i.e., real) verbs that have been heard with –ed. For example, “rask” may be quite likely to be used with –ed because it is similar to real verbs that have been heard with –ed (e.g., ask/asked; mask/masked). On the other hand, spling may be less likely to be used with –ed because it is not similar to any verbs that are heard with –ed (rather, spling is similar to verbs that are not heard with –ed; e.g., spring/sprung, cling/clung, fling/ flung).
WHAT DOES THIS TELL US?
In a nutshell, the research shows that children’s language development is incredibly influenced by the words they hear around them: the more they are exposed to correct language, the more developed their own language will become!
Many thanks to everyone at Tiny Toes for taking part in the research. Once data collection is complete, I will be writing it up as a research article which we are hoping to present to audiences at Universities around UK and beyond.