Center for Human Growth and Development
300 North Ingalls, 10th Floor
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0406
LSA Associate Dean;
Research Professor, CHGD;
Professor, Department of Psychology;
Faculty Associate, Center for Chinese Studies
Twila Tardif's primary research interests are in exploring the relationships between language, culture, and cognition. In particular, early language learning in Mandarin and Cantonese. She has reported that Mandarin-speaking children use more verbs than nouns in their early vocabularies, and is developing a theory about how parents guide children's attention in focusing on and labeling different aspects of causative action sequences to explain both universal and language-specific features of vocabulary learning.
There are 3 central thrusts to her research at this time, each of which has or will be represented in a major funding proposal from NSF/NIH.
Nouns and verbs as alternative worlds for language and cognition.
Tardif has spent the past 10 years documenting and trying to understand the nature of a fundamental difference in Chinese- and English-speaking children's early language. English speakers, and speakers of most other languages, tend to learn lots of nouns in their very early spoken vocabularies, whereas Mandarin-, Cantonese-, and Korean-speakers tend to learn lots of verbs. Examinations of adult language show that these 3 languages also highlight verbs in a number of ways that are different from English and most other languages. Her interest at this point is going beyond the finding to trying to explain the phenomenon from both behavioral and biological perspectives. I am working together with colleagues here (Julie Boland, Bill Gehring) and elsewhere (Janet Werker, Marianella Cassasola, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Golinkoff, Amanda Woodward) to design appropriate experimental learning and language comprehension studies with Chinese- and English-speaking children and adults. Additionally, she hasbegun to conduct ERP studies to examine the biological underpinnings and processing characteristics of these linguistic differences in noun and verb use.
Children's very early spoken language abilities and its prediction of later reading abilities, with Mandarin and Cantonese as the languages of focus. Very little research, even in English, has focused on the continuities between very early (ages 1-3 years) spoken language and children's early reading development (kindergarten and early school years). Together with colleagues in Beijing and Hong Kong, she is conducting a large scale (n=300 per location) longitudinal study with 2 groups of children, one in Beijing the other in Hong Kong, beginning with spoken language data when children were 8-20 months of age through to age 8. They are now in year 5 (mean age 5 years) of this longitudinal study in Beijing and year 4 (mean age 4 years) in Hong Kong.
Emotion Regulation as Mind/Body Developments Across Cultures.
Following pilot work with mainland and Hong Kong Chinese, as well as American adults and children on differences in emotional expression and understanding across Chinese and American cultures, Tardif is working together with Sherri Olson as well as colleagues in Kinesiology, Pediatrics, and Engineering to explore methods for examining both biological and behavioral aspects of emotion regulation and across cultures. Preliminary studies are already being conducted in Beijing and the U.S. to gather data that is comparable to data collected in Hong Kong. They have applied for an NSF HSD grant to integrate our levels of analysis with time-dense sampling of emotion and its biological markers in a complex systems framework.