Distributional structure in language: contributions to noun-verb difficulty differences in infant word recognition.

TitleDistributional structure in language: contributions to noun-verb difficulty differences in infant word recognition.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsWillits JA, Seidenberg MS, Saffran JR
JournalCognition
Volume132
Issue3
Pagination429-36
Date Published2014 Sep
ISSN1873-7838
KeywordsFemale, Humans, Infant, Language, Language Development, Male, Probability Learning, Recognition (Psychology)
Abstract

What makes some words easy for infants to recognize, and other words difficult? We addressed this issue in the context of prior results suggesting that infants have difficulty recognizing verbs relative to nouns. In this work, we highlight the role played by the distributional contexts in which nouns and verbs occur. Distributional statistics predict that English nouns should generally be easier to recognize than verbs in fluent speech. However, there are situations in which distributional statistics provide similar support for verbs. The statistics for verbs that occur with the English morpheme -ing, for example, should facilitate verb recognition. In two experiments with 7.5- and 9.5-month-old infants, we tested the importance of distributional statistics for word recognition by varying the frequency of the contextual frames in which verbs occur. The results support the conclusion that distributional statistics are utilized by infant language learners and contribute to noun-verb differences in word recognition.

DOI10.1016/j.cognition.2014.05.004
Alternate JournalCognition
PubMed ID24908342
PubMed Central IDPMC4107307
Grant ListP30 HD003352 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
P30HD03352 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
T32HD049899 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
F31DC009936 / DC / NIDCD NIH HHS / United States
T32 HD049899 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R37HD037466 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
F31 DC009936 / DC / NIDCD NIH HHS / United States
R37 HD037466 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States