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18-month-olds learn novel words through overhearing

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Gampe,  Anja
Department Psychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

Liebal,  Kristin
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;
University of Leipzig, Germany;

Tomasello,  Michael
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Gampe, A., Liebal, K., & Tomasello, M. (2012). 18-month-olds learn novel words through overhearing. First Language, 32(3), 385-397. doi:10.1177/0142723711433584.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-03CF-E
Abstract
The prototypical word learning situation in western, middle-class cultures is dyadic: an adult addresses a child directly, ideally in a manner sensitive to their current focus of attention. But young children also seem to learn many of their words in polyadic situations through overhearing. Extending the previous work of Akhtar and colleagues, in the current two studies we gave 18-month-old infants opportunities to acquire novel words through overhearing in situations that were a bit more complex: they did not socially interact with the adult who used the new word before the word learning situation began, and the way the adult used the new word was less transparent in that it was neither a naming nor a directive speech act. In both studies, infants learned words equally well (and above chance) whether they were directly addressed or had to eavesdrop on two adults. Almost from the beginning, young children employ diverse learning strategies for acquiring new words.