When MIT cognitive scientist Deb Roy decided that he wanted to know how his infant son picked up language day-to-day as he developed, he went a little further than most. Rather than observe what he could, he decided that the best course of action would be to observe everything, and so he set up fish-eye cameras in every room of his house in order to document how his son dealt with and learned language.

For five years, starting from the very day the newborn baby was brought home from the hospital, the activity in each room was recorded and logged, and over 200 terabytes (200,000 gigabytes) of data subsequently parsed in order to understand how words developed from incoherent gagas and coos to concrete words like “water” and “ball”.

The talk, entitled “Birth of a Word”, is well worth watching for anybody interesting in linguistic development. Some of the technology used is unbelievably impressive.

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