Infants' Use of Shared Linguistic Information to Clarify Ambiguous Requests

Authors

Errata

This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Errata Volume 78, Issue 3, 1033, Article first published online: 16 May 2007

  • Preparation of this manuscript was in part supported by NSF Grant 10499 to the first author.

  • We thank the infants who participated and their parents. We also thank C. Brooke Carroll, Diana Carver, Elisabeth Galle, Jonathan Herberg, Alexandra Fortuna, Emilie Peloubet, Jennifer Peterson, Katherine Singleton, Tywanquilla Walker, and Jennifer Wright for help with data collection and coding. We are grateful to Bethany Rittle-Johnson and Megan Bloom for helpful comments on this manuscript.

  • This research was presented at the 35th Jean Piaget Society Meeting, Toronto, 2005, and at the Conference on New Approaches to Infant Learning and Cognition, Durham, NC, 2005.

concerning this article should be addressed to Patricia A. Ganea, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, VA 22904. Electronic mail may be sent to pas5a@virginia.edu.

Abstract

Do infants use past linguistic information to interpret an ambiguous request for an object? When infants in this research were shown 2 objects, and asked for 1 with an indefinite request (e.g., “Can you get it for me?”), both 15- and 18-month-olds used the speaker's previous reference to an absent object to interpret the request. The 18-month-olds did so even when the request was made after a 2.5-min delay. When the request was made by a person who did not participate in the conversation, the infants did not use the previous verbal information. These results demonstrate infants' ability to use language as a source of information in ambiguous contexts and indicate an early appreciation of the shared nature of conversation.

Ancillary