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Time worms, Blitzscribe and Cognitive Science
March 4, 2011 11:10 AM   Subscribe

From the day cognitive scientist Deb Roy and his wife brought their son home five years ago, the family's every movement and word was captured and tracked with a series of fisheye lenses in every room in their house. The purpose was to understand how we learn language, in context, through the words we hear.

In one 40-second clip, you can hear how “gaga” turned into “water” over the course of six months.
posted by cashman (22 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
not another gaga post, please!
posted by pyramid termite at 11:13 AM on March 4, 2011 [18 favorites]


Next, turn water into whine.
posted by longsleeves at 11:17 AM on March 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow. When my first kid went from 2.5 to 3.5, it was an amazing (and amazingly fast) transition in language use. That clip is even faster. It isn't "gaga" to "water" in 6 months. It's "gaga" for about 4 months, then maybe a week of "wawa" then "wata" and "water" right at the end. Incredible.
posted by DU at 11:18 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:26 AM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


All I Hear is Radio...
posted by elpapacito at 11:30 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


My 7 month old seems really into making farting/raspberry noises at the moment. So I suspect a time shifted recording of him would go: pppffttppffttppffftpffftttpffffttppffftttttppppffffftttppftpfptpfptftwheninthecourseofhumanevents

Not that we set the bar high in my house, mind you.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:32 AM on March 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


I want to know where they hid the skinner box, out of sight of the cameras..
posted by k5.user at 11:35 AM on March 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Project page
posted by DU at 11:36 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a comfort it is to know that he's taken all the incredible effort and study that went into researching this and furthering human knowledge and has funneled it into a marketing startup. Oh brave new world, that has such people in it.
posted by Diablevert at 11:41 AM on March 4, 2011


I recall reading (I believe it was the book "Next of Kin") about a couple who, as primatologists, decided to raise a female chimpanzee as if she were a human. This included dressing the chimp in human clothes, and not allowing the chimp to meet any other chimps (which seems especially cruel); the anecdote I remember is that they came home one day and found the chimp drinking gin and tonics, reading Playgirl and masturbating with a vacuum cleaner. Of course, it may be I'm misremembering this.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 11:43 AM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


You misremember. It was Playboy.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:48 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's also this book Narratives from the Crib about a audio-only recorded infant (which I found through the last two paragraphs in this Slate story).
posted by ShooBoo at 12:15 PM on March 4, 2011


I recall reading

Liar. You heard it on RadioLab like the rest of us.

what is 'reading'
posted by saturday_morning at 12:29 PM on March 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think this was probably more about nerding out and wanting to capture family moments then it was about serious research.
posted by delmoi at 12:38 PM on March 4, 2011


FOR GOD'S SAKE HE'S ASKING FOR VODKA.
posted by Kabanos at 1:23 PM on March 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


My first thought, as a nanny, is that I totally can't imagine the pressure of being "on camera" like that all the time. That citizen is totally amazing.
posted by sonika at 1:48 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's exciting about this is that (if they can get their transcription-assist software working well enough) it will be a huge corpus of child-directed speech, correlated with the actual utterances of the child. Many studies have shown that what's important to children when they're acquiring their native language is almost exclusively the speech that is directed at them. They don't seem to absorb much at all from tv or radio, or overhearing adult conversations. These data form the basis of analysis for what children are doing when they acquire language. Nativists, who believe that there is some innate structure in the brain which must be present at birth in order to explain language acquisition, disagree with those who believe that language is a wholly-learned behavior. In order to test out theories on both sides, an accurate idea of what the input is to the child is really vital. So as technology develops and gives us access to larger and larger corpora, we are better able to solve these puzzles about how it is that humans become able to speak.
posted by tractorfeed at 3:07 PM on March 4, 2011


Please tell me they named him Truman.
posted by webmutant at 3:54 PM on March 4, 2011


I listened to the 40 second water clip in Safari, turned it up really loud so the girlfriend could hear it, we laughed and were giddy. Then I hit Cmd+left arrow to go back. oh, god. never. again.
posted by Brainy at 5:41 PM on March 4, 2011


It's not a perfect fishbowl. They have a shut-off button in each room if they want it, and they can always go back and edit anything horribly embarrassing. The child personally will have periodic reviews and re-give consent, and the whole corpus doesn't come out until final consent after 18.
posted by eritain at 6:05 PM on March 4, 2011


Please tell me they named him Noam.
posted by briank at 6:45 PM on March 4, 2011


Just saw the TED talk about this. It gave me goosebumps.

Fuck yeah, language acquisition!
posted by ocherdraco at 4:39 PM on March 16, 2011


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