Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Infants using known verbs to learn new nouns: Before infants begin to talk in sentences, they are paying careful attention to conversations

Date:
March 7, 2014
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
New research demonstrates that even before infants begin to talk in sentences, they are paying careful attention to the way a new word is used in conversations, and they learn new words from this information in sentences.

There is a lot that 19-month-old children can't do: They can't tie their shoes or get their mittens on the correct hands. But they can use words they do know to learn new ones.

New research from Northwestern University demonstrates that even before infants begin to talk in sentences, they are paying careful attention to the way a new word is used in conversations, and they learn new words from this information in sentences.

For example, if you take an infant to the zoo and say, "Look at the gorilla" while pointing at the cage, the infant may not know what exactly is being referred to. However, if you say, "Look! The gorilla is eating," the infant can use the word that they do know -- "eating" -- to conclude that "gorilla" must refer to the animal and not, for example, the swing she is sitting on.

The zoo scenario mirrors the method the researchers used for their experiment. First, infants at ages 15 and 19 months were shown several pairs of pictures on a large screen. Each pair included one new kind of animal and a non-living object. Next, the objects disappeared from view and infants overheard a conversation that included a new word, "blick." Finally, the two objects re-appeared, and infants heard, for example, "Look at the blick."

"After overhearing this new word in conversation, infants who hear a helpful sentence such as 'the blick is eating' should look more towards the animal than the other, non-living object," said Brock Ferguson, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Northwestern and lead author of the study. "We show that by 19 months, they do just that. In contrast, if infants heard the new word in an unhelpful sentence such as 'the blick is over here' during the conversation, they don't focus specifically on the animal because, after all, in this kind of sentence, 'blick' could mean anything."

The researchers said many people believe that word learning occurs only in clear teaching conditions -- for example, when someone picks up an object, brings it to the baby, points to it and says its name. In fact, infants usually hear a new word for the first time under much more natural and complex circumstances such as the zoo example described.

"What's remarkable is that infants learned so much from hearing the conversation alone," said Sandra Waxman, senior author of the study, the Louis W. Menk Professor of Psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern. "This shows how attuned even very young infants are to the conversation around them. It also shows how well infants build upon what they do know to build their vocabulary."

Ferguson said that this study underscores that the amount of language a child hears on a daily basis can have significant consequences on their language outcomes later in life.

"One implication of our new study is that infants who hear relatively little language in the first few years may also be missing out on critical word learning opportunities that arise everyday in the conversations that surround them," said Ferguson. He said future research includes examining the link between language input, processing efficiency and the kind of word learning revealed in the study to better understand how to best support children's language development from a very early age.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Brock Ferguson, Eileen Graf, Sandra R. Waxman. Infants use known verbs to learn novel nouns: Evidence from 15- and 19-month-olds. Cognition, 2014; 131 (1): 139 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2013.12.014

Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Infants using known verbs to learn new nouns: Before infants begin to talk in sentences, they are paying careful attention to conversations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140307100220.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2014, March 7). Infants using known verbs to learn new nouns: Before infants begin to talk in sentences, they are paying careful attention to conversations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140307100220.htm
Northwestern University. "Infants using known verbs to learn new nouns: Before infants begin to talk in sentences, they are paying careful attention to conversations." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140307100220.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

App Teaches Kindergarteners to Code

App Teaches Kindergarteners to Code

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) They can't all read yet, but soon kindergarteners may be able to create basic computer code. Researchers in Massachusetts developed an app that teaches young kids a simple computer programming language. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins