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Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto and Chiara Filippini Present in Child Development Biennial Conference

Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto and Chiara Filippini Present at the Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Conference


March 25, 2019

Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto and Chiara Filippini, MA, presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, March 21-23, 2019, Baltimore, Maryland.


The poster presentation described another novel discovery involving the Petitto, P.I., and research team’s “RAVE” language learning tool (NSF INSPIREIIS-1547178 “The RAVE Revolution for Children with Minimal Language Experience During Sensitive Periods of Brain and Language Development”).


During the SRCD Biennial Conference, Dr. Petitto was thrilled to greet her former graduate student, Dr. Ioulia Kovelman, who is a now a prominent researcher in her own right in Bilingual Language Development and Disorders at the University of Michigan.


The presentation was titled, “Hearing Babies Respond to Language’s Patterning and Socially-Contingent Interactions with a Signing Avatar: Insights into Human Language Acquisition,” and the paper’s authors were as follows: Laura-Ann Petitto* Principal Investigator, Rachel Sortino, Kailyn Aaron-Lozano, Grady Gallagher, Setareh Nasihati Gilani, David Traum, Arcangelo Merla, Chiara Filippini, Cryss Padilla.


Main finding: (1) Human babies (particularly within ages 6-12 months) must have early exposure to language. Specifically, babies at this age have peaked sensitivity to the rhythmic temporal patterns found universally in natural language, especially, to maximally contrasting phonetic syllabic patterning.


This permits babies to discover the phonetic inventory of their native language—be it in signed or spoken languages, including the discovery of words (or signs) and their syntactic patterning and facilitates early reading success in both speaking and signing babies.

(2) Beyond simply being around others who are in social interactions with the baby, early language development most optimally requires human communications that are socially contingent (that is, communicative exchanges that are meaningfully related to the baby’s emotional and affective states).


(3) Young babies demonstrate riveted attention to the Avatar when it produces the rhythmic temporal patterns to which their brains are most sensitive, despite the fact that the Avatar appears on a TV screen and despite the fact that the babies did not understand American Sign Language (ASL) – the specific language that they were seeing.


The source of their fascination was due to two factors: (i) the Avatar’s production of the rhythmic temporal patterns at the heart of language, and (ii) the presence of socially contingent communications, which were built into RAVE so as to be responsive to the baby’s internal emotional states. (4) The babies’ response to RAVE showed that the RAVE augmentative system has the potential to be a powerful language learning tool for young babies.

For a fuller description of these fascinating findings see our SRCD Poster (Figure 1) and SRCD Abstract (Figure 2).


Figure 1 – SRCD Poster


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