Research Proposal Sample

May 11, 2018 | Author: jojolilimomo | Category: Language Development, Language Acquisition, Linguistics, Infants, Prenatal Development
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R e s e a rc rc h P r o p o s a l T h e effects o f  prenatal stimulation o n post - natal language acquisition

Prepared b y : K r i s

a n d Beth T h e m m e s

Table of Contents



Communication Topic and Problem (Kris DeSmet)


Rationale (Beth Themmes)


Background (Kris DeSmet)


Focus Questions (Beth Themmes)

Objectives (Kris DeSmet)

Hypothesis (Beth Themmes) Theoretical Theoretical Construct (Kris DeSmet) Assumptions (Beth Themmes) Limitations (Kris (Kris DeSmet) Terms (Kris DeSmet and Beth Themmes)  Part Methods  Designs and Procedures (Kris DeSmet

Beth Themmes)

 Issues and Concerns (Kris DeSmet  Ethical  Issues

Evaluation (Kris DeSmet

Beth Themmes)

Implications of Research (Kris DeSmet)  Part Exemplary Literature Review (Beth Exemplary Exemplary Literature Review (Kris DeSmet) Bibliography (Beth Themes) Bibliography (Kris DeSmet)

Beth Themmes)

PART I Communication Topic and Problem

The topic of this study is the effort of prenatal prenatal communication on post-natal language acquisition. Recently, a lot of focu focuss has been placed placed on the areas of learning disabled children. A

study such as we propose has great implications. It is supposed that some language

deficiencies and communication problems may be curbed with the use of prenatal communication techniques. by Brent Logan,


similar pilot study to the one we propose was published in 1991

What What is lacking, lacking, however, is a comprehensive study on the effects of 

prenatal prenatal communication between mother and and fetus f etus after birth, specifically in speech development. Rationale

Language acquisition is a communication topic that has been widely researched. Jean Piaget, a widely respected psycholinguist, is one theorist who spent his entire career researching a variety variety of child development issues. Piaget wrote wrote many articles and books on the role of  language language in cognitive development and and the relationship between language and intellectual operations. Piaget wrote, "It is obvious, obvious, in the first place, that certain hereditary factors condition intellectual development (1952, (1952, p. 1); however, however, he also stated that, " every level, experience is necessary necessary to the development of intelligence (1952, p. 362). Therefore, it could be said that while genetics play play a role in language language development and intelligence, a child's ch ild's experience with language language will also enhance his intelligence. According According to Piaget, there are many levels of development a child goes through from birth to adulthood. The period that relates to the subjects of this study is the "sensori-motor"

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mechanisms for speech proper in the second year. Second, in the develop develop formats of interaction with their caregivers that facilitate the

of infancy children of language and its

communicative use. Third, and critically, in infancy children develop the symbolic capacity, which is a prerequisite for the acquisition of language" (1984, p. p. 245). Anisfeld states that language language development begins at birth, but we believe that it may begin even sooner soo ner in utero. In

Development. an Introduction, Robert E. Owens, Jr. describes the fetus'

ability to hear sounds in the womb. One example example of the neonate's predisposition to speech speech is is "

her movements in relation relat ion to speech patterns. patterns. Undoubtedly, the newborn has been been exposed in utero to sounds, such as the mother's mother's heartbeat and and digestive sounds. She has also been hearing her mother's voice and experiencing the rhythmic movements movements that accompany accompany her mother's speech" (1992, p. 171). There are several issues brought up in the above research that are relevant to the need to research whether or not a mother's communication with her fetus will affect her child's language acquisition. If a mother can assist her child child in acquiring language skills by speaking or reading to the fetus on a regular basis, it is i s possible that the mother and child child will bond more effectively, the child will be more intelligent, and may speak earlier than the average child. Background

The area of prenatal learning is relatively new. The pioneers of prenatal learning lear ning were and Newbery. Their study in 1940 involved involved one pregnant woman woman and the stimulus of a loud noise. nois e. They produced a sudden sound near her abdomen which produced a change in fetal heartbeat heartbeat and increased movement. Repetition of the same noise produced produced a conditioned response by the fetus; it adapted to the noise and no long reacted to it.

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Prenatal studies have come a long way since then. More an and d more

shows the

potential of  of the the unborn child. It is medical fact that a fetus develops its embryonic nervous system just system  just days after conception an and d physically develops responsive hearing as early as four an and d half months half  months after conception. Logan (1 (1991) 991) reported seeing on onee of  of his his fetal subjects, via an ultrasound device, timing its respirations to a prerecorded set of  of simulated simulated heartbeats an and d eight other subjects could be seen moving their head to the source of  of the the sound. From the sixth to eighth months after conception, the fetus develops memory templates.

A study done by

Spence (1986) showed that infants responded more favorably to a target passage which wa wass read most often by its mother during the prenatal period than a novel passage that wa wass read least often or read by someone else. This study provides evidence that fetal memories an and d learned responses in the womb are represented after birth in some form of  of behavior. behavior. What the infant does remember are the rhythms

the mother's heartbeat an and d particular frequencies of 

sound heard prenatally. There is evidence that the mother's role pr pree- an and d post-natally is highly influential to the speech development developmentof  of their their child. Newborns have shown to ...prefer their own mothers' voice "

to those of  of other other females, female voices to male voices, an and d intrauterine heartbeat sounds to male voices, bu butt they do not prefer their fathers' voices to those of  of other other males


1986, p. 5) 5)..


A fetus hears these voices through extensive intrauterine noises such as the

heartbeat hear tbeat,, digestion digestion,, natural movement of  of fluids fluids within the mother an and d the amounts of  of maternal maternal tissue surrounding the fetus. These noises inhibit the fetus

hearing external sounds such as

a father's male voice. Research indicates that infants tend to respond favorably to sound heard similar to those heard while in utero.

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Our proposed proposed study

intends to focus on answering answering the above questions through

comprehensive research. Objectives The objectives objectives we seek to meet in this study are as follows: Create interest in an otherwise skeptical skeptical field. Retest the findings findin gs of the second phase of Project Prelearn. Provide evidence that prenatal prenatal communication can can be an effective means to studying language outcomes and and that others may use that evidence in other diverse areas of study on human communication. Provide evidence evidence of the mother's importance to the outcomes of her child's child 's development. results by studying the effects of prenatal prenatal communication through through the post-natal age of two to t o give g ive credence to extending the study into years beyond toddler age. Show credible evidence that prenatal communication exercises can possibly be used to reduce or eliminate post-natal speech deficiencies

communication apprehension)

without the controversial use of gene therapy. Recognize the mother's influence on the fetus. Prove there is reasonable ground to conduct a comprehensive study on language outcomes of prenatal stimulation. Our proposed proposed study

intends to focus on meeting meeting the above objectives through

comprehensive research.

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Past research shows that mothers greatly influence influence their children's childre n's language acquisition by speaking, reading and singing to their children before they are born. Our study intends to prove prove that mothers who speak, read and sing to their children prenatally have children childre n who acquire language earlier than children who do not receive the same stimulation. Theoretical Construct

Speech is rooted in the development of sentence structure. structure. The first vocal utterances made upon upon birth are believed to be influenced by by prenatal auditory stimulation. It is the th e study of  how we come to eventually eventual ly make make a sentence that we believe is relevant to our research proposal. Therefore, we believe that structural and generative linguistics ttheory heory is quite pertinent to this proposal. Structural linguistics is one model relevant to to this research proposal. It is a multi -level hierarchical approach approach to explaining the construction of sentences, much better identified as a s an utterance of sound or baby talk. Consonant and vowel phonemes are a combination comb ination of  morphemes which create a single syllable. Used in combination with each other, they eventually leads to the formation fo rmation of words.


pilot study identified as Project


published its findings on the effects effec ts of prenatal auditory stimulation on post-birth infant language development. One of the outcomes of this study showed showed that upon passing passing the birth canal,

newborns instantly instantly started cooing, eight eight babbled. The third stage in epigenetic vocalization, 'ah-goo,' was achieved achieve d by 10 babies, with a more complex linguistic variation, 'aha,' 'aha,' featured once; an indiscriminate indiscriminate 'mama' (not

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directed at the mother) was clearly uttered three times by one


The utterances that Logan (1991) describes could be easily easily categorized as morphemes and phonemes, the links to more complex language components such as consonant and vowel distinction. Structural language theories theories then say that the creation of words from morphemes morphemes and and phonemes lead to the development developmen t of phrases. These phrases, in turn, create clauses and then sentences. Developed by by Chomsky, Chomsk y, generative grammar also has its place in our study. Structural Structur al linguistics explains sentence pattern, patterns which which are used used in speech. However, it does not explain the innate and and intuitive intui tive nature nature of language language acquisition. We suppose that prenatal stimulation influences influences the mental foundation of speech. But how do infants know how to make make that utterance?

four elements eleme nts of generative generati ve grammar are

in explaining this

process: deep structures, structures, phrase-structure rules, transformational rules and surface structure. He describes deep structure as a mental sentence structure that all humans innately possess. In a related paper discussing the auditory stimulation methods developed by Dr. Alfred A. Gilmor Gilmor (1989) comments that the voice of of the mother, ...imprints upon the fetus' nervous "

system the structure and rhythm of the language the mother is speaking



Listening to the mother's voice is the infant's stimulus to learning learning language. found that the absence or reduction of of the mother's voice during the first days, weeks and months after birth can cause language problems in infants, such as pathological communication apprehension, apprehen sion, well into their toddler years. Thus, the mother's participation, particip ation, through reading reading and talking to their unborn child, is an important bridge bridge to post-natal language development.

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More in detail, deep d eep structure structu re is developed through through phrase-structure rules and modified by transformational rules

passive, active and tenses of language). These structures structur es and rules

in process, develop a surface surfac e structure which is the actual utterance of a word, a sense sens e of speech. It is this utterance of a word that tha t connects structural structural linguistics linguistic s to generative theory. Assumptions

There are many assumptions assu mptions related to the idea that a mother has a role prenatally in her child's language acquisition. The first assumption is that a mother can communicate with her child while it is still in her womb. While some research has been done on a fetus's fetu s's ability to hear hear in the womb, we don't know what kind kind of effect it has on the child. The second assumption is that the findings of the second phase of Project Prelearn, which we intend to to duplicate duplica te to a certain degree, were were accurate. In addition, we assume that the method of research is adequate and comprehensive enough to apply to our study. The third assumption assumpt ion is that our study will be generally accepted by professionals profe ssionals in fields associated with language acquisition. Also, we assume that the findings of our study will be relevant to these professionals. The fourth assumption assumpti on is that we will be able to provide solid evidence evidenc e that prenatal communication exercises exercis es may may be used to possibly eliminate future communication communica tion problems problems such as communication communica tion apprehension. The fifth assumption assumpt ion is that there is an interest in this field of study. The sixth and final assumption is that as communication authorities, authorit ies, we value our ability to communicate and speak effectively and would have liked to have learned how to do so at a

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younger younger age. We hope that there is a way to teach children children to speak competently at a younger age in order to help alleviate alle viate some communication communication problems. Limitations

Despite all sorts of studies, genetics does provide a natural limitation limi tation to our study. People are genuinely predisposed to certain c ertain physical deficiencies or genetic makeup which can create i

by virtue of their

nite nite outcomes. Caution will have to be taken take n in interpreting interpre ting

the results to determine whether the outcome is coming

the actual stimulus, a person's

genetics or a combination combina tion of both. We can predict within reasonable certainty certain ty that the findings are linked to the stimulus. Furthermore, if the extended study is granted, latent genetic problems may become become a factor fac tor and skew the earlier results. Environmental factors factors also limit the outcomes of our study. Environmental factors, factor s, such the air the subjects subject s breathe or the quality of the water they drink, are not controllable controlla ble but but greatly nfi nfi impact the health of the mother and the fetus. Abnormalities found due to such environmental

factors have been known to cause problems problems to infants in in all sorts of developmental areas. areas. It is unsure as to what extent this may or may not impact the area of speech development. development. Again, we may predict with reasonable reasonab le certainty that the findings would be linked to the stimulus. stimu lus. The goals and objectives objective s as outlined are limited by by the amount of research available. availab le. The objectives were created

the obvious lack lack of information on our topic. Recent research, that

spanning ten years or less, is difficult diffic ult to obtain. Older studies and and research have been completed but are outdated. outdated. The few current studies uncovered in our process are of good substance. substanc e. However, the lack of studies, in itself, it self, also limits our proposal to the information informa tion we can provide but gives credence to the importance of going forward with with our proposal for furt further her research.

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The theoretical construct was limited to communication as it relates to speech. We do not ignore the fact that theories theori es related to message production and reception are relevant rel evant to our topic. We believe that speech communication communication theories better shape this proposal. Before a message can be sent or received, sentences must be put together and, consequently, consequently, verbalized. Before verbalization takes place, generative grammar th theory eory provides an expla explanation nation of the innate processes that imply capabilities capabil ities for for language from birth.

Terms  communication ommunication apprehension apprehensi on a fear of speaking. epigenetic vocalization - vocalization after birth languag languagee acquisition - refers specifically to speaking  neonatal - newborn  neurological memory a fetus fe tus of six months develops a central nervous system where it is

capable of receiving, encoding and processing messages  novel story - the second control variable in a study done by DeCasper and Spense; Spens e; it is the th e story

read least often to the fetuses fe tuses of the experiment distingui sh one utterance or word from another  phoneme - one of the smallest unit of speech that distinguish  prenatal - the period of pregnancy from conception to birth

devi ce used to transmit and record record external pressure; for the purpose of   pressure transducer - a device this study, this is inser inserted ted into a nipple to record sucking patterns of infants  target story - the control contr ol variable in a study done by DeCasper and and Spence; it is a story read most

to the fetuses of the experiment

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stimulation. These are broad categories of development development and and we expect to see changes chan ges in language acquisition acquisiti on according to Piaget's developmental stages. Piaget's Piaget' s developmental stages, specifically the sensor -motor period, will be used as a guideline to assist assis t in the evaluation eval uation of the subjects. Implications of Research

This will be an important impor tant study in the area of prenatal language acquisition acquisit ion and and the implications are wide ranging. Ultimately, we we believe that a lifelong comprehensive study should be be done. 'Baby steps' have been taken thus far and something something bigger must happen to make an impact in this thi s field -- to make people believe. It must must be strengthened. strengthe ned. Prenatal communication in in relation to language acquisition can make a big impact in the scien scientific tific community as we know it and there are studies that attest atte st to this fact. The information obtained a longitudinal study may spark other ways to enhance a fetus' life before birth. How else can one positively enhance the development of a human being without the use of genetic splicing or other alteration of some kind. kind. Language acquisition acquisit ion and developmental problems in in children childre n have a real possibility of being eliminated with the use of prenatal communication. We believe that in the future, prenatal communication will be made just as important to a fetus' development as physical health recommendations recommendations made by a physician. Studies have proven over over and over that it provides children an extra tool to learning. lea rning. It evokes increased self -esteem as they can articulate artic ulate words earlier earlier and enter grade school sc hool with higher average language abilities. abilities . It is, in fact, setting them up for success.

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