Handbook of Research in Language Development Using Childes

Handbook of Research in Language Development Using Childes

Handbook of Research in Language Development Using Childes

Handbook of Research in Language Development Using Childes

Excerpt

The availability of computerized child language transcripts and of procedures for doing at least some automated analyses on those transcripts has expanded the possibilities for child language research enormously. Though when first proposed, this idea was considered to have potentially dangerous consequences -- including such perils as the suppression of new data collection efforts, the promotion of sloppy research, the distancing of researchers from their data, the proliferation of uninteresting research reports, and so on -- in fact the availability of the Child Language Data Exchange System has had effects directly opposite to these. By making clear what gaps exist in our collective access to transcripts, it has promoted the collection of new datasets. By enabling historically important corpora to be directly compared, it has raised consciousness about issues of transcript quality. By making large quantities of real data available even to junior and underfunded researchers, it has increased their access to empirical bases for their analyses. Finally, it has served as a proving ground for major hypotheses and theories, raising rather than lowering the level of discourse in the field.

Information about the Child Language Data Exchange System (or CHILDES) has been disseminated in a number of ways -- through journal articles, chapters in books, many workshops and demonstrations held in various places, and most authoritatively through the manual,MacWhinney (1991) book entitled The CHILDES Project: Tools for analyzing talk. The manual documents the transcription conventions recommended for use within the system, describes the programs available for analyzing transcripts, and catalogues the corpora available through the system. For most people, it serves as a reference volume, rather than as a pedagogical manual. If automated transcript analysis is to become maximally useful, so that even beginners in the field of child language can learn to conduct these analyses, then an explicitly pedagogical tool is necessary. We hope the current handbook serves this purpose.

The idea for this Handbook emerged in a conversation among Barbara Pan, Pamela Rollins, Catherine Snow and Jeff Sokolov, the group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education working on the project Foundations for Language Assessment in Spontaneous Speech. The project served as a field test for CHILDES -- one of the places where child language data were transcribed and analyzed using the system, and where problems and lacunae were noted and reported. The Harvard . . .

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