Differentiation of Words and Gestures in an 18-Month-Old's Lexicon: Evidence from a Disambiguation Task Open Access

Suanda, Sumarga Havelin (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/f7623d04x?locale=en


In the early stages of word learning, children are equally receptive to words and symbolic gestures as object labels, suggesting that a general symbolic mechanism may underlie both word and gesture learning. In two experiments, I investigated the lexical organization of words and symbolic gestures; in particular the extent to which words and symbolic gestures form a single lexicon. As a window into the structure of the lexicon, I employed a disambiguation task and examined the extent to which 18-month-olds avoided word-word, word-gesture and gesture-gesture overlap. In Experiment 1, children reliably mapped a novel word onto a novel object (as opposed to a familiar one), consistent with the notion that children tend to avoid lexical overlap. In contrast, children mapped a novel gesture onto a familiar object. The fact that children avoided word-word overlap but sought word-gesture overlap suggests that words and gestures may not form a single lexicon. In Experiment 2, children avoided word-word overlap but did not
avoid gesture-gesture overlap, suggesting that in at least some ways the principles underlying word learning diverge from those underlying gesture learning. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for (1) the structure of a child's early lexicon, (2) the notion of a common symbolic mechanism underlying word and gesture learning, and (3) the development of a mutual exclusivity word learning strategy.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

- Are Words Special: Observational Evidence 3

- Are Words Special: Experimental Evidence 6

- Do Words Become Special? 10 - Mutual Exclusivity in Word Learning 10 - Overview of Main Research Goal 19 Experiment 1 20 - Methods 20 - Results 27 - Discussion 30 - Experiment 2 31 Methods 32 - Results 36 - Discussion 39 General Discussion 39

- Early Differentiation between Words and Gestures in the Child's Lexicon 32

- The Specialized Nature of Children's Early Word Learning 43

- Children's Mapping of Gestures onto Familiar Objects 43

Conclusion 52 References 54 Appendix 66 Tables 70 Figure Captions 77 Figures 78

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