Social and Environmental Contributors to Infant Word Learning


Infants demonstrate comprehension of early nouns (e.g. “hand”) around six months, and comprehension of early non-nouns (e.g. “eat”) around 10 months. In two experiments, we explore the reasons for this lag. Expt. 1 is a gaze-following study, the results of which suggest an improvement in point-following around ten months, and reveal correlations between pointing and both overall and non-noun vocabulary. Expt. 2 is a set of corpus analyses, the results of which suggest that word frequency does not explain the difference between noun and non-noun age of acquisition, while suggesting that the co-presence of words and their referents may play an important role. The results of these experiments contribute to our understanding of word-learning across word classes, and lend support to environmental and social factors as having an impact on the trajectory of word learning in the first year of life.

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