ERIC Number: EJ1043813
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Nov
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
Do 6-Month-Olds Understand That Speech Can Communicate?
Vouloumanos, Athena; Martin, Alia; Onishi, Kristine H.
Developmental Science, v17 n6 p872-879 Nov 2014
Adults and 12-month-old infants recognize that even unfamiliar speech can communicate information between third parties, suggesting that they can separate the communicative function of speech from its lexical content. But do infants recognize that speech can communicate due to their experience understanding and producing language, or do they appreciate that speech is communicative earlier, with little such experience? We examined whether 6-month-olds recognize that speech can communicate information about an object. Infants watched a Communicator selectively grasp one of two objects (target). During test, the Communicator could no longer reach the objects; she turned to a Recipient and produced speech (a nonsense word) or non-speech (coughing). Infants looked longer when the Recipient selected the non-target than the target object when the Communicator spoke but not when she coughed--unless the Recipient had previously witnessed the Communicator's selective grasping of the target object. Our results suggest that at 6 months, with a receptive vocabulary of no more than a handful of commonly used words, infants possess some abstract understanding of the communicative function of speech. This understanding may provide an early mechanism for language and knowledge acquisition.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
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