ArticlePDF Available

Becoming a word learner: A debate on lexical acquisition. Counterpoints: Cognition, memory, and language.

Authors:

Abstract

In this volume, researchers at the cutting edge of lexical acquisition present competing theories of word acquisition that have emerged in the past decade. They also evaluate each chapter's theoretical contribution to the field. Language acquisition is a hotly contested field that lies at the intersection of cognitive and developmental psychology, linguistics, philosophy, and neuroscience. Because the word lies at the core of language acquisition, the study of how words are acquired offers a foundation upon which theories of language acquisition can be constructed. At twelve months infants learn new words slowly and laboriously, while at twenty months they acquire an average of ten new words per day. Theories that explain this change deepen our understanding of the nature of language, and ultimately provide real insight into the workings of the developing mind. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Studying the oral language growth of Spanish‐speaking preschoolers in the United States is increasingly important given the critical role early language development plays in reading outcomes. In this article, we report on the Spanish and English growth trajectories observed in 124 bilingual preschoolers collected over 2 years in 36 classrooms across 5 states and the associations of growth in each language to language of instruction and home language exposure. Patterns indicate the need for Spanish instruction to maintain robust rates of Spanish growth and English growth rates in Spanish, bilingual, and English‐only instruction. Significant differences in English and Spanish oral language abilities were also noted at the intercept between children who were Spanish dominant versus balanced bilinguals. Implications for research and practice are provided.
Article
A pervasive goal in the study of how children learn word meanings is to explain how young children solve the mapping problem. The mapping problem asks how language learners connect a label to its referent. Mapping is one part of word learning, however, it does not reflect other critical components of word meaning construction, such as the encoding of lexico‐semantic relations and socio‐pragmatic context. In this paper, we argue that word learning researchers' overemphasis of mapping has constrained our experimental paradigms and hypotheses, leading to misconceived theories and policy interventions. We first explain how the mapping focus limits our ability to study the richness and complexity of what infants and children learn about, and do with, word meanings. Then, we describe how our focus on mapping has constrained theory development. Specifically, we show how it has led to (a) the misguided emphasis on referent selection and ostensive labeling, and (b) the undervaluing of diverse pathways to word knowledge, both within and across cultures. We also review the consequences of the mapping focus outside of the lab, including myopic language learning interventions. Last, we outline an alternative, more inclusive approach to experimental study and theory construction in word learning research. This article is categorized under: Psychology > Language Psychology > Theory and Methods Psychology > Learning We review how despite advances in our understanding of early word representations, there remains an overemphasis on the mapping problem. After outlining the consquences of the mapping focus, we also discuss more inclusive approaches to the study of word learning.
Article
This research takes a dyadic approach to study early word learning and focuses on toddlers’ (N = 20, age: 17–23 months) information seeking and parents’ information providing behaviors and the ways the two are coupled in real‐time parent–child interactions. Using head‐mounted eye tracking, this study provides the first detailed comparison of children’s and their parents’ behavioral and attentional patterns in two free‐play contexts: one with novel objects with to‐be‐learned names (Learning condition) and the other with familiar objects with known names (Play condition). Children and parents in the Learning condition modified their individual and joint behaviors when encountering novel objects with to‐be‐learned names, which created clearer signals that reduced referential ambiguity and potentially facilitated word learning.
Article
Socioeconomic status (SES) has been repeatedly linked to the developmental trajectory of vocabulary acquisition in young children. However, the nature of this relationship remains underspecified. In particular, despite an extensive literature documenting young children’s reliance on a host of skills and strategies to learn new words, little attention has been paid to whether and how these skills relate to measures of SES and vocabulary acquisition. To evaluate these relationships, we conducted two studies. In Study 1, 205 2.5‐ to 3.5‐year old children from widely varying socioeconomic backgrounds were tested on a broad range of word‐learning skills that tap their ability to resolve cases of ambiguous reference and to extend words appropriately. Children’s executive functioning and phonological memory skills were also assessed. In Study 2, 77 of those children returned for a follow‐up session several months later, at which time two additional measures of vocabulary were obtained. Using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) and multivariate regression, we provide evidence of the mediating role of word‐learning skills on the relationship between SES and vocabulary skill over the course of early development.
Article
Full-text available
In this series of experiments, we tested the limits of young infants’ word learning and generalization abilities in light of recent findings reporting sophisticated word learning abilities in the first year of life. Ten-month-old infants were trained with two word-object pairs and tested with either the same or different members of the corresponding categories. In Experiment 1, infants showed successful learning of the word-object associations, when trained and tested with a single exemplar from each category. In Experiment 2, infants were presented with multiple within-category items during training but failed to learn the word-object associations. In Experiment 3, infants were presented with a single exemplar from each category during training, and failed to generalize words to a new category exemplar. However, when infants were trained with items from perceptually and conceptually distinct categories in Experiment 4, they showed weak evidence for generalization of words to novel members of the corresponding categories. It is suggested that word learning in the first year begins as the formation of simple associations between words and objects that become enriched as experience with objects, words and categories accumulates across development.
Article
Word learning researchers have historically been interested in elucidating the mechanisms that allow children to encode words. Recent research has moved beyond the moment of encoding to examine the processes underlying children’s retention and retrieval of words across time. This work has revealed significant memory constraints on children’s word learning. That is, children struggle to retain and retrieve newly learned words. This review outlines research suggesting that describing these processes as memory constraints may mischaracterize how memory shapes language development. Instead, memory constraints are more accurately characterized as double‐edged sword mechanisms; limited memory abilities likely hinder and promote children’s word learning simultaneously. The review concludes with suggestions for developing a theory of how children learn to remember words.
Article
The uncertainty of reference has long been considered a key challenge for young word learners. Recent studies of head camera wearing toddlers and their parents during object play have revealed that from toddlers' views, the referents of parents' object naming are often visually quite clear. Although these studies have promising theoretical implications, they were all conducted in stripped‐down laboratory contexts. The current study examines the visual referential clarity of parents' object naming during play in the home. Results revealed patterns of visual referential clarity that resembled previous laboratory studies. Furthermore, context analyses show that such clarity is largely a product of manual activity rather than the object naming context. Implications for the mechanisms of early word learning are discussed.
Article
Full-text available
Vocabulary differences early in development are highly predictive of later language learning as well as achievement in school. Early word learning emerges in the context of tightly coupled social interactions between the early learner and a mature partner. In the present study, we develop and apply a novel paradigm—dual head‐mounted eye tracking—to record momentary gaze data from both parents and infants during free‐flowing toy‐play contexts. With fine‐grained sequential patterns extracted from continuous gaze streams, we objectively measure both joint attention and sustained attention as parents and 9‐month‐old infants played with objects and as parents named objects during play. We show that both joint attention and infant sustained attention predicted vocabulary sizes at 12 and 15 months, but infant sustained attention in the context of joint attention, not joint attention itself, is the stronger unique predictor of later vocabulary size. Joint attention may predict word learning because joint attention supports infant attention to the named object.
Article
Attention to speech, speech perception, and referential learning - Volume 39 Issue 4 - Yuanyuan Wang, Derek M. Houston
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.