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Creating Language Games Sonja Eisenbeiss & Carla Marciano seisen@essex. ac. uk @Language. Games 4 a http: //essex. academia. edu/Sonja. Eisenbeiss/ http: //languagegamesforall. wordpress. com/ https: //childdirectedspeech. wordpress. com/
Overview § Why do language acquisition researchers develop language games? § Student Projects about Language Games: What can you learn from the creation of language games? § A solution for some practical problems: the language games tool kit and resource site § How can language teachers use language games (creation) to support language learning?
Why do linguists develop language games? § We want to study how learners acquire language. § We need rich data that are as naturalistic as possible. § We do not want to underestimate what learners can do by looking at the same situation over and over again – for instance by always recording people during meal time with the same food. § We do not want to overestimate what learners can do – for instance by recording them in situations where they can use fixed phrases and sentences that they have heard many times before. § We want to make our projects fun for learners.
How do Linguists Study Children’s Language? § Naturalistic data / spontaneous speech samples: § recordings in everyday situations § naturalistic input or child data, but often lacking relevant utterances § Experiments: § controlled variables, fixed stimuli and procedures § good control of variables, but often “unnatural” or not appropriate for younger children § Elicitation games/tasks § games that encourage language use § some control over the words and structures children use, but still quite natural and fun
An Example: Possessives § Children over- or under-use possessive s: § * This is John (=John’s) house. § * This is mine’s. § We want to determine the reasons for such problems. § We want to support acquisition, especially in populations with language impairments. § Even long naturalistic recordings may not contain any examples of possessives – in particular if the child is not fighting about possessions with other children. § Typically developing children are too young for production experiments when they produce these errors (around 2 years).
Some Elicitation Games for Possessives § Children have to find matching cards with possessors and their possession (e. g. queen – crown) in a Memorystyle game. § Children are given toy characters and their possessions and are asked to find out what belongs to whom. A silly puppet will challenge them and encourage discussion. § Children have to tell another person whose balloon is red in a picture with lots of people and their balloons. The listener then has to colour in the balloons in their own black-and-white copy (see e. g. Koch 2010, Bevan 2010).
Possessives: Naturalistic Data vs. Games Eisenbeiss (2000): a comparison of 44 naturalistic recordings and 20 possessive game recordings with German children (age: 1; 11 -3; 6). § 70% of the naturalistic recordings did not contain a single possessive. § 10. 969 naturalistic utterances only contained 29 possessives. § In contrast, the game recordings provided sufficient examples for quantitative analyses. § We also found more variety of possessors (not just mommy’s, daddy’s).
Game-Type I: Barrier or Director/Matcher Games § A “director” describes a scene/object etc. and a “matcher” who is not able to see this scene/object, has to recreate it. § E. g. : The matcher has to build a toy house identical to the one created by the director who is hidden behind a screen. § Bevan (2010): Whose Ballon is red? Two sets of pictures, both with animals that have balloons, one with coloured and one with blank balloons.
Whose Balloon is red? (Bevan 2010)
Whose Balloon is red? (Bevan 2010)
Game-Type II: Speaker/Listener Games § A speaker provides information for someone who does not have access to the information. § Variant 1: speakers retell a story they have heard while the listeners were out of the room. § Variant 2: speaker tells a puppet that cannot see what is going on.
Game-Type III: Co-Player Games § All Participants are involved in a game and provide each other with information to co-ordinate their actions. § For instance, players can be involved in a construction or puzzle game.
The Puzzle Task (Eisenbeiss 2009, 2011) § a task with co-players: child describes contrasting pictures on a puzzle board, adult finds the matching pieces, child puts them into the correct cut-out § exchangable pictures and puzzle pieces § can be used to elictit particular forms or to elicit the linguistic encoding of particular meanings
Contrasting Puzzle Pictures (Eisenbeiss 2011)
Broad-Spectrum Tasks § general encouragement to speak § Frog Story: a picture book w/o words used to elicit narratives (Berman/Slobin 1994) § Bag Task: a bag with bag for blocks and animals of different sizes and colours. The bag has pockets that match the animals in colour an have coloured buttons, ties, etc. ; and children frequently refer to colours, sizes and locations when they ask other players to help them hide or find animals in the pockets (Eisenbeiss 2009, 2010) § contrasts between colours, sizes, locations, etc.
The Broad Spectrum, Co-Player Bag Game The game involves a bag with pockets of different styles, colours and sizes for toys of different sizes and colours. Children refer to colours, sizes and locations when they ask others to help them hide or find toys in the pockets.
Focused Tasks § form-focused: the elicitation of particular forms or constructions, for instance, picture-matching game for the elicitation of noun-adjective constructions (little cow -- big cow) § meaning-focused: the linguistic encoding of a particular meaning that can be encoded in different ways, e. g. my car / Sonja’s car / ? the car of Sonja? In a game about people and their possessions
Stimuli § static (pictures, photos) for object/person properties § dynamic (video, cartoon) for events § realistic displays (photos) for easy recognition, independent of children’s knowledge of artistic conventions (3 D, shadows, etc. ) § drawings, cartoons for easy systematic variation
The Role of Contrasts Contrasted elements are more likely to be encoded: § Contrasting possessors (e. g. the panda) in Bevan’s whose-balloon-is-red-task are mentioned. § However, the balloons do not contrast with other toys and are often not mentioned.
Student Projects about Language Games • Motivating students to learn about • properties of their (second) language • communication • Transferable skills training • Research/analytical skills • IT skills • Communication skills • Work Placements and Collaboration with Charities
Learning About Linguistic Properties • What is the generalisation in the target language? • For instance, when do speakers use ‘s and of? Jane’s leg vs. the leg of Jane my mother’s leg vs. the leg of my mother my table’s leg vs. the leg of my table • How complex can linguistic structures get? Jane’s mother’s father’s dog’s leg
Learning about Communication Raising awareness of language processing and interaction priniciples (e. g. the role of contrasts) and people’s motivation to engage in communication • director/matcher games • speaker/listener games • co-player games
Practical Problems: Creating Games Creating game materials for each language game • is a lot of work • expensive • needs quite a bit of inspiration and creativity • requires storage space for all those game materials
Practical Problems: Students’ Game Creation Students face the same problems as teachers. In addition: • They may not have the IT or craft skills. • They will have lots of questions about resources and processes. • You cannot spend all of your time on the practical training, but need to focus on the design and linguistic aspects of the games.
Our Solution: “Language in a Bag” – “hardware” • • fabric-based materials that allow people to create their own games easily: a felt mat with a pattern made of Velcro strips fabric strips with Velcro strips. clear plastic ID holders straps or handles from laptop bags etc. coloured elasticated strings and ribbons key rings additional: little pockets with added Velcro strips (e. g. old jewellery sachets)
Our Solution: “Language in a Bag” – online • • We have created a website and blog, with • readings for game creators • descriptions of games • downloadable materials (e. g. pictures) After the launch of our new Centre for Language Development throughout the Lifespan (La. De. Li) on 02/07/2015, we will regularly post patterns, game ideas, etc. for “language in a bag”. You can already see some game materials and descriptions here: http: //languagegamesforall. wordpress. com/