ERIC Number: ED209936
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1981-Nov
Reference Count: 0
Early Uses of "Big" and "Little" by Mothers and Children.
Robb, Martha; Lord, Catherine
The range of meanings of "big" and "little" that mothers and their three children under age two expressed in relatively natural communication situations was studied. Longitudinal data from transcripts of conversations of middle-class mothers and their children were analyzed along with diary records kept by parents of their children's use of size words for three months or longer. Size words included "big,""little," and "tiny." The distribution of uses for mothers and children were similar, indicating that children are exposed to and begin to use these terms in a variety of ways at a very early age. For both groups, at least half of the uses of "big" and "little" clearly referred to physical size or size relationships among objects. References to isolated objects were the most typical use for both groups. In addition, both mothers and children used whole phrases containing size words to comment on aspects of objects or situations that were not necessarily size-related. Despite their similarity to mothers, children appeared to be doing more than imitating input from others. The two groups were distinguished by their choice of size words. Mothers relied almost exclusively on "big" and "little" while children used a variety of terms. Evidence was found in support of integrating the exemplar and feature approaches that are used to characterize the acquisition of dimensional terms. The findings suggest that abstraction processes and the use of exemplars are closely intertwined in learning word meanings. (SW)
Descriptors: Abstract Reasoning, Adjectives, Child Language, Cognitive Development, Comprehension, Concept Formation, Discourse Analysis, Infants, Language Acquisition, Language Research, Linguistic Theory, Longitudinal Studies, Mathematical Concepts, Mothers, Oral Language, Parent Child Relationship, Semantics, Verbal Learning
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Stanford Univ., CA. Dept. of Linguistics.
Note: In its Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, Number 20, p108-115, Nov 1981.