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Method of analysis of Videotaped infant behavior relevant to the acquisition of speech Woodward, Patricia E.

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to evaluate a new method by which to observe and categorize infant pre-speech behavior and to relate such behavior to the acquisition of speech. Pre-speech behavior in this study was observable behavior that occurred prior to the child's production of his first word. The salient innovations of the new Method are: the use of a time frame, use of ethological categories, and use of two levels of coding. Videotapes of the infant's natural behavior at home are first dubbed with an inconspicuous visual time signal. Primary coding of the auditory and visual information on the tape is done according to the ethological classification of elements of behavior. Secondary coding of the same data may be done in whatever units or definitions investigators wish. The videotapes of raw data and computer files of primary coding constitute a data bank which facilitates cross-disciplinary analyses. The Method is also applicable to observation of speech behavior. Evaluation of the new Method was done by applying it in a field trial longitudinal study of two infants. Five minute samples of behavior were analyzed for each month from the ninth to the fifteenth month inclusive. Secondary coding reflected theories of non-verbal communication, psycholinguistics, and Piagetian cognitive development. Communications analogous to language functions (Jakobson, 1960) and operations of reference (Brown, 1973) were found before speech. Ethological findings incidental to the field trial were consistent with findings reported for the human infant ethogram. The main strengths of the Method, demonstrated in the field trial, were its success in allowing the investigator to monitor the reliability of the coding and to find and relate individual moments in the original data to several simultaneous types of analysis. The expense of the Method may limit its application except by multi-disciplinary research groups. Cross-disciplinary discussion of the findings suggested future applications of the Method as a source of data for research in the area of speech acquisition.

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