Preschoolers are more likely to direct questions to adults than to other children (or selves) during spontaneous conversational acts

AbstractQuestion asking is a prevalent aspect of children's speech, providing a means by which young learners can rapidly gain information. Although past work demonstrates that children are sensitive to the knowledge state of potential informants, less work has explored whether children spontaneously direct questions to adults over other children, and in particular if adult-directed questions focus on content that is more likely to support learning. We recorded preschool’s speech and noted whether the speech was directed towards an adult, another child, or was stated to themselves. Questions took up a greater proportion of children's adult-directed speech as compared to the proportion of questions in child-directed and self-directed speech. Furthermore, children more frequently asked the questions intended for learning when they spoke to adults. Results were strongest for older preschoolers. Our findings suggest that children discriminately choose "what" and "whom" to ask and this ability improves over the course of development.

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