Twelve-month-olds privilege words over other linguistic sounds in an associative learning task


S. Graham, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4 Canada; e-mail:


We examined whether 12-month-old infants privilege words over other linguistic stimuli in an associative learning task. Sixty-four infants were presented with sets of either word–object, communicative sound–object, or consonantal sound–object pairings until they habituated. They were then tested on a ‘switch’ in the sound to determine whether they were able to associate the word and/or sound with the novel objects. Infants associated words, but not communicative sounds or consonantal sounds, with novel objects. The results demonstrate that infants exhibit a preference for words over other linguistic stimuli in an associative word learning task. This suggests that by 12 months of age, infants have developed knowledge about the nature of an appropriate sound form for an object label and will privilege this form as an object label.