This interesting post regarding the frequent confusion in differential diagnosis with autism and late talking comes from the Eide neurolearning blog. A reference within the post links this neuroimaging study that concludes that late talking children apparantly use their right brains more than their left brains during speech.
This post from one of my favorite blogs – Cognition and Language Lab - briefly laments the notion that language studies over-focus on nouns, ignoring the different processes involved in learning other parts of speech. To compensate they’ve set up a web based verb study.
Teach Effectively! comments here on a study that illustrates the effect of early instructional methods on adult reading strategies. Essentially, adults who’d had phonics instruction as a child relied less on vocabulary based context in reading nonwords than adults who’d had no phonics. The larger point was to emphasize the long term impact of differing instructional methods.
This link courtesy of USA Today – 1 in 7 adults in America can’t read material more challenging than a children’s picture book. While some states, such as Mississippi actually made gains since the last similar federal study from 1992, many larger states saw increases in illiteracy. Undiagnosed learning disabilities, immigration, and high school dropout rates are listed as the main culprits.
Time Magazine reviews two related books here. One book, by Hanna Holmes, details the many ways that humans are really just animals with fancier language skills. While Holmes attempts to describe humans using language normally reserved for animals, Temple Grandin does just the opposite. Grandin, a skilled author noted for her autistic background, describes animals using language normally reserved for humans. Both books seem interesting; the article itself is a good read.
The New York Times, and New York Times Magazine have hosted a couple of pieces by Steven Pinker in the last few weeks – one on how Chief Justice Roberts’ gaffe in administering the oath of office occurred precisely because Roberts is such a stickler for proper grammar. His mistake of accidentally attempting to correct the Constitution illustrates the potential dangers of nitpicking language. In the other, Pinker entertainingly digresses concerning the likely influence of genetics over our personalities. Usually these influences are more probabilistic rather than deterministic.
I’ve recently rediscovered The University of Iowa’s online Child Language Research Center, which has some interesting material, much of it related to their work on Specific Language Impairment (SLI). By clicking one of the following two links, you will be directed to the most informative areas of the site - 1) stats tutorials, published articles, and posters ; 2) newer posters and powerpoints, especially concerning their expansive longitudinal SLI study. These guys have studied SLI and relationships among factors from reading, smoking, autism, comprehension, phonology and much more – some of which can be accessed at their site. As a language diagnostician I especially enjoy the sliding scale exercise that challenges my assumptions regarding what should be considered a language impairment.
Tamara Fisher’s blog for Teacher Magazine includes this post detailing several reasons why the needs of gifted students aren’t often being met in today’s classrooms. Not only do gifted children have to overcome lacks of awareness and teacher training, but also many excuses from teachers about why not to teach the gifted. Included are “I don’t have enough time to teach students already at their benchmarks,” and “Identifying some children as gifted makes the other children feel bad.” Fisher tackles a wide variety of moral and rational issues surrounding the gifted at her blog titled, Unwrapping the Gifted. Fisher does a really good job of showing (and reminding) that today’s teaching far too often tries to funnel people on both ends of the learning difference spectrum into some socially acceptable middle. Even though most teachers are well aware of the need to challenge learners individually, the reality of today’s classroom makes this particularly difficult for advanced learners.
This may be the best guide to grammar, online or not. The site is sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation, a non-profit organization from Hartford Connecticut. Well organized drop down menus, the quick index, and the guide’s search engine all allow a user to quickly find information on just about anything grammar related. If I gave out awards for top internet language related reference sites this definitely win the top award. Here’s the link: Guide to Grammar and Writing
Second place would go to Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL).
Timothy Mason, a faculty member at Université de Paris 8, has written prolifically, and much of this writing is generously available on his web site. A part that I particularly enjoy is some extensive information on language acquisition that comes from some previous lectures.
His Could Chomsky be Wrong? is an interesting mix of multiple links, synopses of others writings, and Mason’s well thought out arguments. For anyone wanting this often ignored side of the story this is a great place to go. I particularly enjoyed Geoffrey Sampson’s linked There is no Language Instinct, which can be found on his site.
New Scientist Magazine’s web site is now offering all 2008 online articles free – this includes its top ten in-depth articles on the brain. These include several that are especially pertinant to language and learning, such as…
According to the well regarded Harvard evolutionary biologist, we’re talking symbolism, creativity, recursiveness*, and language. In this article from the latest Harvard Magazine, Hauser does a good job in describing how language is qualitatively different in humans than in animals. Noteworthy is his point that animals possess “laser-beam” intelligence in specific areas; including chimps and tools, rhesus monkeys and their ability to distinguish singulars versus plurals, and songbirds’ ability to create different combinations of songs for specific things such as marking territory. Many things that we can do animals can do too. The difference is that while they possess laser specific abilities, we possess a “floodlight” of human intelligence that can use single systems of thought in multiple ways, and apply information cross contextually. To begin the quest for our great feat’s origin, read the article.
* language recursion = the ability to extend language, potentially infinitely, by such means as embedding sentences within other sentences. Click here for more on recursion.
This quote does a good job of summarizing the current state of our search for Autism’s cause. It’s from a Dr. Susan Bryson, the head of an autism research department at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and, according to the this Medical News Today article, one of the world’s foremost autism experts. The article is titled, Is Jenny McCarthy Right? Researcher Says no Proven Link Between Vaccines and Autism
“There is so much we still don’t know about autism. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we discovered there was just one protein missing in our DNA that caused the disorder, or something simple like that? All we can say is that there is nothing in the science that has been discovered so far that suggests the answer will be that easy.”
You can participate in an online language experiment at the Cognition and Language Lab. It takes about five minutes. I can’t tell you what it’s about, though you can read about it’s purpose after finishing the experiment. I can tell you that it’s interesting stuff.