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Keywords:

  • three-term contingency;
  • multivariate analysis;
  • language acquisition;
  • reinforcement;
  • imitation;
  • verbal behavior;
  • mother-child interaction

Selections from a large longitudinal data set of verbal interactions between a mother and her child are presented. Two sets of three-term contingency sequences that seemed to reflect maternal rewards and corrections were noted. Both the antecedents as well as the immediate consequences of maternal interventions are presented to explore training and learning processes. The observed frequencies of three-step sequences are compared to those expected based upon Markov-chain logic to substantiate the patterning of the interactions. Behavioral conceptualizations of the learning process are supported by these analyses, although their sufficiency is questioned. It is suggested that maternal rewards and corrections should be integrated with perceptual, cognitive, and social learning conceptualizations in a skill-learning approach to explain the complexity of language transmission and acquisition processes.