Learning Words From Overheard Speech

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  • Much of the experimental research on early word learning implies or assumes that the prototypical word learning situation is dyadic and involves joint attention; that is, an adult directly addresses the infant or toddler and labels what the child is focused on. Many parents and practitioners also believe that this is how young children best learn words. Yet, many young children around the world experience far more polyadic than dyadic interactions, and research suggests they are very attentive to third-party interactions. It also is known that toddlers monitor conversations between their siblings and caregivers and sometimes will interrupt them and contribute in relevant ways.

    These and other observations led Yuriko Oshima-Takane to the hypothesis that young children may be learning vocabulary from these third-party conversations. Since ...

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