Chow, J., Davies, A., & Plunkett, K. (2017). Spoken-word recognition in 2-year-olds: The tug of war between phonological and semantic activation. Journal of Memory and Language 93 (2017) 104134
The connection between language and cognition is still an unresolved problem in science. Different questions come up including: why kids acquire language at a certain age while taking many years to gain perception; the variations in neural mechanisms of cognition and language. Other questions are the role played by cognition and language when it comes to thinking; whether conceptual cognition can be achieved in the absence of language; and whether language is only a communication tool or important in developing thoughts. The work by Chow Janette, Davies Anne and Plunkett Kim (2017) in the article Spoken-word recognition in 2-year-olds: The tug of war between phonological and semantic activation is relevant to the concern of this class given that it elaborates the relationship between language and cognition. Past studies show that while toddlers can match words before turning one, it is towards the end of the second year that they can start to extract information which is phonologically and semantically-based.
Despite this, the order and mode of obtaining this information have not yet been addressed. Using two experiments, Chow et al. (2017) embraced the adult four-picture Visual World Paradigm (VWP) for toddler testing. In this case, toddlers can hear a spoken word and view pictures which are semantically and phonologically connected or disconnected to the spoken word. They show that in the same way as adults, toddlers aged between 24 and 30 months participated in a phonological match at a faster pace compared to a semantic match. It became apparent that these variations hold regardless of whether the character of the semantic match is thematic in nature or taxonomic. The findings hold that language influences cognition of toddlers. It is achieved by biasing their selective attention to relevant information within the visual world that could bolster the efficiency of mental activities like making analogical inferences.
The work by Chow et al. (2017) is important as it seeks to understand the nature of the underlying systems which permit toddlers to acquire the words of their language. A major strength of this article is that it used different methodologies with the inclusion of truth value judgment tasks, VWP studies and intermodal preferential looking paradigm among others. The primary focus is on how semantically and phonological development occurs in areas that are widely denoted by extreme cross-linguistic variability. The first important issue is how learners determine the accurate mapping between meanings and forms in these areas, and whether there is a change like this mapping over development. Most important is that the findings of this study provide proof for the potency of various types of constraints in building conjectures regarding mental vocabulary.
A similar issue is whether learners approach the spatial and mental areas with a set of common core concepts upon which they map linguistic expressions or whether various languages could influence the nature of the nonlinguistic concepts themselves. In a nutshell, it must not be lost out that the authors have done well in presenting the connection between language and cognition. However, future work must look to identify shared and language-specific factors which influence the acquisition timetable for mental and spatial state expressions across the languages.
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