At 6-9 months, human infants know the meanings of many common nouns.

dc.contributor.author

Bergelson, Elika

dc.contributor.author

Swingley, Daniel

dc.coverage.spatial

United States

dc.date.accessioned

2016-08-04T17:32:00Z

dc.date.issued

2012-02-28

dc.description.abstract

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.

dc.identifier

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22331874

dc.identifier

1113380109

dc.identifier.eissn

1091-6490

dc.identifier.uri

https://hdl.handle.net/10161/12628

dc.language

eng

dc.publisher

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

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10.1073/pnas.1113380109

dc.subject

Child Language

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Comprehension

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Female

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Humans

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Infant

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Intention

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Language Development

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Language Tests

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Male

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Pattern Recognition, Visual

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Psychology, Child

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Semantics

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Vocabulary

dc.title

At 6-9 months, human infants know the meanings of many common nouns.

dc.type

Journal article

duke.contributor.orcid

Bergelson, Elika|0000-0003-2742-4797

pubs.author-url

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22331874

pubs.begin-page

3253

pubs.end-page

3258

pubs.issue

9

pubs.organisational-group

Duke

pubs.organisational-group

Psychology and Neuroscience

pubs.organisational-group

Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

pubs.publication-status

Published

pubs.volume

109

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