Document Detail

Monolingual, bilingual, trilingual: infants' language experience influences the development of a word-learning heuristic.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  19702772     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
How infants learn new words is a fundamental puzzle in language acquisition. To guide their word learning, infants exploit systematic word-learning heuristics that allow them to link new words to likely referents. By 17 months, infants show a tendency to associate a novel noun with a novel object rather than a familiar one, a heuristic known as disambiguation. Yet, the developmental origins of this heuristic remain unknown. We compared disambiguation in 17- to 18-month-old infants from different language backgrounds to determine whether language experience influences its development, or whether disambiguation instead emerges as a result of maturation or social experience. Monolinguals showed strong use of disambiguation, bilinguals showed marginal use, and trilinguals showed no disambiguation. The number of languages being learned, but not vocabulary size, predicted performance. The results point to a key role for language experience in the development of disambiguation, and help to distinguish among theoretical accounts of its emergence.
Krista Byers-Heinlein; Janet F Werker
Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Developmental science     Volume:  12     ISSN:  1467-7687     ISO Abbreviation:  -     Publication Date:  2009 Sep 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2009-08-25     Completed Date:  2009-11-02     Revised Date:  -    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  9814574     Medline TA:  Dev Sci     Country:  England    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  815-23     Citation Subset:  IM    
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
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MeSH Terms
Analysis of Variance
Child Development / physiology*
Concept Formation
Language Development*
Paired-Associate Learning / physiology
Pattern Recognition, Visual
Photic Stimulation / methods
Verbal Learning / physiology*

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