Infants track word forms in early word-object associations.

Developmental science

PubMedID: 24576138

Zamuner TS, Fais L, Werker JF. Infants track word forms in early word-object associations. Dev Sci. 2014;.
A central component of language development is word learning. One characterization of this process is that language learners discover objects and then look for word forms to associate with these objects (Mcnamara, ; Smith, ). Another possibility is that word forms themselves are also important, such that once learned, hearing a familiar word form will lead young word learners to look for an object to associate with it (Juscyzk, ). This research investigates the relative weighing of word forms and objects in early word-object associations using the anticipatory eye-movement paradigm (AEM; McMurray & Aslin, ). Eighteen-month-old infants and adults were taught novel word-object associations and then tested on ambiguous stimuli that pitted word forms and objects against each other. Results revealed a change in weighing of these components across development. For 18-month-old infants, word forms weighed more in early word-object associative learning, while for adults, objects were more salient. Our results suggest that infants preferentially use word forms to guide the process of word-object association.