How do babies learn the words for body parts at such a young
age when they can’t identify where words start and end? Does
touch from their caregivers affect how they learn and give meaning
Amanda Seidl, professor of speech, language and hearing sciences,
set out to answer these questions.
Seidl’s student researchers played a continuous stream containing
three-syllable, made-up “words” to young infants. While the infants
listened to this string, they also received tactile stimulation from an
experimenter. For example, for some infants, whenever “doh-be-tah”
was played, they received a touch from the experimenter on their
knee. When “lay-po-gah” was played the infants got touched once
on their elbow, but all other elbow touches occured during different
Researching Ancient Andean Textiles
Grasping a piece of thousand-year-old fiber with a gloved hand,
anthropology doctoral student Marie Elizabeth Grávalos prepares
to analyze it under a microscope. Through several trips to the
mountainous Ancash region of Peru, Grávalos has unearthed textiles
that reveal “many rich and diverse art styles.”
One significant finding is from the complex woven textiles excavated
at the site of Hualcayán. “These were recovered from mortuary
contexts and dated approximately 1 to 1000 CE,” she says. Using
technical attribute analysis, she found that single communities of
weavers tended to produce relatively homogenous textiles.
Grávalos, who presented her research at the 2014 Society for
American Archeology conference, attributes the commonalities to
shared technical knowledge and uniformity in textile production.
syllable sequences. Thus, touch with “doh-be-tah” was more reliably
linked with the sequence of syllables than touch with “lay-po-gah”.
Afterward, when tested on their language preferences, almost all
of the infants recognized “doh-be-tah,” but they failed to show a
similar recognition of “lay-po-gah.”
“We take this to mean that
babies can use tactile cues
and they can use them in a
way that is contingent upon
speech that they are hearing,”
Seidl says. | S.A.
Learning Language through Touch
PHO TO B Y REBECCA BRIA Marie Elizabeth Grávalos