This project aims to investigate aspects of how children learn the meaning of words in different cultures and social backgrounds, and to use the results in computer models that simulate the evolution and acquisition of language. The focus of this project is on the relations between multimodal interactions (i.e. non-verbal and verbal interactions that provide clues to the meanings of words) and vocabulary development of infants during their second year of life.

The study compares these relations among Changana/Ronga/Portuguese speaking families in rural and urban Mozambique (2009 – 2011) with those among Dutch speaking families in the Netherlands (2011 – 2012). In the field studies, we visit the participating families’ homes, videotape the behaviour of the infants in question, analyse these videos and correlate those aspects that we are interested in with the infants’ vocabulary development.

Once the field studies are near completion in 2012, a corpus will be developed that can be used to parameterise computer simulations. Such computer simulations will be used to study the social, cultural and cognitive mechanisms that underly children’s word learning abilities.

PI: Paul Vogt

PhD student: Doug Mastin

Research assistants, master students: Chiara de Jong (now at UvA), Suzanne Aussems (now at Warwick University), Anne Kuijs, Van Le, Mohamed Hafiz, Yevgen Matusevych, Marieke Hanhart, Lena Rodionova, Diede Schots, Julia Nasution, Esmée Mertens, Camille Geboers, Lienke van Hoek, Irene Claessens, Diede Schots and Ingrid Masson-Carro.

Funding: NWO

Period: 2009 – 2013


News: A follow-up project (COSLI) in which the corpus developed in the CASA MILA project will be used to develop agent-based models that simulate the interactions of infants observed in the Netherlands and Mozambique.

On 11 October 2013, Doug Mastin successfully defended his dissertation, entitled ‘Exploring Infant Engagement, Language Socialization & Vocabulary Development: A study of rural and urban communities in Mozambique’. You can download his dissertation through this link: dissertation.pdf.

Cultural and social aspects of multimodal interactions in language acquisition

Three papers were presented in the summer of 2013. The first is on the role of gesture on vocabulary development in Mozambique will be presented at the TiGeR meeting in Tilburg on 19-21 June (paper). The second is on the same topic and will be presented at the CogSci 2013 conference in Berlin (paper). There we will also present the third paper on modelling using data from the CASA MILA project.

From 19-23 July 2011, the first major findings from the CASA MILA project were presented at the 12th International Congress for the Study of Child Language (IASCL -2011) with two papers. Doug Mastin’s paper won the congress’ Student Award. The posters that represent these papers can be downloaded here and here (Award Winning presentation).