Why Some Verbs are Harder to Learn than Others – A Micro-Level Analysis of Everyday Learning Contexts for Early Verb Learning

AbstractVerb learning is important for young children. While most previous research has focused on linguistic and conceptual challenges in early verb learning (e.g. Gentner, 1982, 2006), the present paper examined early verb learning at the attentional level and quantified the input for early verb learning by measuring verb-action co-occurrence statistics in parent-child interaction from the learner’s perspective. To do so, we used head-mounted eye tracking to record fine-grained multimodal behaviors during parent-infant joint play, and analyzed parent speech, parent and infant action, and infant attention at the moments when parents produced verb labels. Our results show great variability across different action verbs, in terms of frequency of verb utterances, frequency of corresponding actions related to verb meanings, and infants’ attention to verbs and actions, which provide new insights on why some verbs are harder to learn than others.

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