Document Detail

At 6-9 months, human infants know the meanings of many common nouns.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  22331874     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
It is widely accepted that infants begin learning their native language not by learning words, but by discovering features of the speech signal: consonants, vowels, and combinations of these sounds. Learning to understand words, as opposed to just perceiving their sounds, is said to come later, between 9 and 15 mo of age, when infants develop a capacity for interpreting others' goals and intentions. Here, we demonstrate that this consensus about the developmental sequence of human language learning is flawed: in fact, infants already know the meanings of several common words from the age of 6 mo onward. We presented 6- to 9-mo-old infants with sets of pictures to view while their parent named a picture in each set. Over this entire age range, infants directed their gaze to the named pictures, indicating their understanding of spoken words. Because the words were not trained in the laboratory, the results show that even young infants learn ordinary words through daily experience with language. This surprising accomplishment indicates that, contrary to prevailing beliefs, either infants can already grasp the referential intentions of adults at 6 mo or infants can learn words before this ability emerges. The precocious discovery of word meanings suggests a perspective in which learning vocabulary and learning the sound structure of spoken language go hand in hand as language acquisition begins.
Elika Bergelson; Daniel Swingley
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural; Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.     Date:  2012-02-13
Journal Detail:
Title:  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America     Volume:  109     ISSN:  1091-6490     ISO Abbreviation:  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.     Publication Date:  2012 Feb 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2012-02-29     Completed Date:  2012-05-08     Revised Date:  2013-06-26    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  7505876     Medline TA:  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A     Country:  United States    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  3253-8     Citation Subset:  IM    
Department of Psychology and Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
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MeSH Terms
Child Language
Child Psychology*
Language Development*
Language Tests
Pattern Recognition, Visual
Grant Support

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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