Language Development and Assessment

Computer technology provides valuable ingredients in the set up of a comprehensive approach to language learning, inasmuch as it allows quantitative methods to be used in order to understand the mechanisms of language acquisition. This knowledge serves as a basis for a host of efficient activities in the field of language development, such as assessment of children’s and adults’ language proficiency in various skills in both first and second language, Computer Assisted Language Learning systems (CALL), independent evaluation of language learning interventions, design of language policies, etc. Moreover, in recent years focus has been placed on speech and language disorders in children, since they can cause pervasive lifelong impairments that have an impact on many aspects of life such as learning, education, behavior, relationships and self-esteem. Therefore, special emphasis is given to early assessment and intervention, aiming at providing a smooth integration of these children in the educational system.
ILSP has been actively engaged in all the above fields, seeking at the same time, to reinforce and expand the empirical connection between typical/atypical language development research and methods for language assessment and intervention. These methods, whether assessment batteries or educational material, in order to be valid and efficient need to be constantly revisited and revised in the light of current research on language development mechanisms and on various parameters, social or cognitive, that affect this development.
The focus lies in the collection and synthesis of data relevant for cognitive and language development and for monitoring language learning progress in educational environments. To this end:
  • Learner’s language input is systematically being collected in order to expand the already existing learner’s corpus and analyze patterns of linguistic performance of typically and atypically developing children and adults learning Greek as a native or as an additional language
  • Metrics are being developed in order to identify and quantify deficits in cognitive and linguistic domains
The results of the above research activities are being exploited to develop targeted assessment and remediation procedures in the corresponding context of school, language class, special education, or speech and language therapy. Moreover, ILSP’s CALL activities (educational software design and development) take into account research results on language acquisition and development. These may eventually lead to remedial or educational interventions that would meet the individualized needs of learners.
Accomplishments so far:
  • Participation in the Educational Reform Project for the Turkish-Greek minority schools of Western Thrace (Greek Ministry of Education), in the context of which cross sectional study on language proficiency level in Turkish-speaking children has been carried out. More specifically, three placement tests addressed to the minority students were developed (“Let’s speak Greek I, II, III”). These tests were administered to a representative sample of the population and the test results were processed and analyzed.
  • Participation in the Action “Linguistic and Educational Support for Reception Classes”, as part of the large-scale Educational Project “Education of Repatriate and Immigrant Students” (Operational Programme "Education and Lifelong Learning) implemented by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. One of the objectives of this Action was to assess the proficiency in Greek of children who attend Reception Classes by means of placement tests. In this context, the placement tests “Let’s speak Greek I, II, III” were updated and administered to a large sample of students.
  • The results of 1224 tests administered to the students attending Reception Classes were statistically processed and analyzed. Finally, new placement tests for young learners of Greek as L2 were developed.
  • Assessment of reading skills in the general population and development of psychoeducational tests for computer-based screening of reading disability
  • Comprehensive testing battery for learning disabilities (tests of reading accuracy and speed for pseudowords, words, and text, reading comprehension, repetition of pseudowords, phoneme elision, speech discrimination, nonverbal auditory processing, working memory (digit span), arithmetic, and nonverbal intelligence)
  • Comprehensive battery of 14 tests of visual and lexical discrimination, reading, spelling, morphosyntax, comprehension, vocabulary, working memory, nonverbal reasoning, and rhythm
Current R&D focus:
  • Further adjustment of the Common European Framework for Languages to the Greek language and especially to young learners
  • Set up and carry out a computerized testing procedure for all immigrants’ and minority children of primary and secondary school residing in Greece
  • Extension of the existing Learner’s Corpus by drawing data from the “productive” (writing and speaking) parts of the administered tests and annotation of the corpus with respect to phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic phenomena of Greek
  • Longitudinal and cross-sectional studies of the main features of the acquisition of Greek as a first or an additional language
  • Cross-linguistic studies on language development and on language transfer
  • Research on the emergence of grammar and development of literacy
  • Research on Language impairments
  • Formal screening, detection, and assessment of students with learning disabilities: tests of reading fluency and accuracy, assessment of spelling including detailed classification, tests of reading comprehension, vocabulary assessment and oral language skills assessment
Institute for Language and Speech Processing