Events / ILST seminar: Joseph Coffey

ILST seminar: Joseph Coffey

December 3, 2021
1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

3401 Walnut Street, Room 401B, 3401 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

Joseph Coffey
Department of Psychology
Harvard University


How WEIRD is that? The relationship between parental input and child vocabulary in rural Ghana


A rich body of research has found evidence that child-directed speech plays an important role in the emergence of children’s early language. In some ways, this relationship is intuitive: children learn the language they hear and must perceive a word in order to learn it. Therefore, more exposure to speech gives children more opportunities to learn. However, questions still remain as to how speech input relates to language growth. Most of the research mentioned above draws from a narrow and unusually language-rich set of societies where this relationship appears almost linear. But cultures vary wildly in the occurrence of child-directed speech throughout the day, such that linear relationships drastically underestimate language development in some societies. Thus, exploration of a wider range of language environments is necessary.


In this talk, I will be examining data from a longitudinal study of children living in Ghana that tracks vocabulary growth and verbal interactions in the home. I will compare speech exposure and vocabulary growth in this sample to samples in the U.S. and in other comparable African populations and attempt to characterize the relationship between these factors in our sample.