Six-Month-Olds Comprehend Words That Refer to Parts of the Body

Authors


should be sent to Ruth Tincoff, Department of Psychology, Bucknell University, 1 Dent Drive, Lewisburg, PA 17837. E-mail: ruth.tincoff@bucknell.edu

Abstract

Comprehending spoken words requires a lexicon of sound patterns and knowledge of their referents in the world. Tincoff and Jusczyk (1999) demonstrated that 6-month-olds link the sound patterns “Mommy” and “Daddy” to video images of their parents, but not to other adults. This finding suggests that comprehension emerges at this young age and might take the form of very specific word-world links, as in “Mommy” referring only to the infant’s mother and “Daddy” referring only to the infant’s father. The current study was designed to investigate if 6-month-olds also show evidence of comprehending words that can refer to categories of objects. The results show that 6-month-olds link the sound patterns “hand” and “feet” to videos of an adult’s hand and feet. This finding suggests that very early comprehension has a capacity beyond specific, one-to-one, associations. Future research will need to consider how developing categorization abilities, social experiences, and parent word use influence the beginnings of word comprehension.

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