PSY 369: Psycholinguistics
Language Acquisition:
Learning words
Typical language development
12 Months
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Uses one or more words with meaning
(this may be a fragment of a word)
Understands simple instructions,
especially if vocal or physical cues are
given
Practices inflection Is aware of the social
value of speech
Typical language development
18 Months

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Has vocabulary of approximately 5-20
words
Vocabulary made up chiefly of nouns
Some echolalia (repeating a word or
phrase over and over)
Is able to follow simple commands
Typical language development
24 Months
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Can name a number of objects common to his
surroundings
Is able to use at least two prepositions
Combines words into a short sentence
Vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words
Volume and pitch of voice not yet well-controlled
Typical language development
36 Months
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Use pronouns I, you, me correctly
Is using some plurals and past tenses
Knows at least three prepositions
Handles three word sentences easily
Has in the neighborhood of 900-1000 words
About 90% of what child says should be
intelligible
Verbs begin to predominate
Language Sponges
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Lots of individual differences
But there is also a consistent pattern
Language Sponges
Learning words
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12 ms
2 yrs
3 yrs
6 yrs
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first words
200 words
1,000 words
15,000 words
About 3,000 new words per year, especially in
the primary grades
As many as 8 new words per day
Production typically lags behind comprehension
Vocabulary growth
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Methods used to study this
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Observational data (60s to present)
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Diary studies
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Taped language samples (Roger Brown)
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Parents record their kids language development
Small numbers of children (Eve, Adam, Sarah)
Went to home every month made tape recordings
Extensive study needed
 Hard to kids to “say all the words you know” or “say a
question”
 Early phonological production isn’t like adult production,
often need to take great care deciding what the child
meant
Large database CHILDES
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Many kids, many languages, including children with language
difficulties
Early speech production
Of course he said “arf.”
What else did you expect
his first word to be?
Early speech production
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First words
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Around 10-15 months (lots of individual differences)
Emergence of systematic, repeated productions of
phonologically consistent forms
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Idiomorphs - personalized words
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Developed in systematic ways
 Sometimes simplifications of adult speech
 Or relate to sounds of the objects
Demonstrate
 Creative, not simply imitation
 Learned importance of consistency of names
Early speech production

First words


Around 10-15 months (lots of individual differences)
Emergence of systematic, repeated productions of
phonologically consistent forms

Idiomorphs - personalized words

Typically context bound (relevant to
the immediate environment)
 Important people
 Objects that move
 Objects that can be acted upon
 Familiar actions
 Nouns before verbs
Charlie’s words
Semantic Development
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1-general names
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2- specific names
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red
5-personal/social
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mommy
3-action words
4-modifiers
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dog
yes, no, please
6-functional
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what
Later words
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Then:
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Children come to use words in more adult-like ways
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Words start to be used in wider range of contexts
Children use wider range of word types:
 referential words (ball, doggie, chair)
 proper names (Mummy, Spot)
 actions (open, wash, tickle)
 properties, states, qualities (more, gone, up, on, dirty)
 social-pragmatic words (no, please)
 few ‘frozen’ phrases (all gone, what’s that)
Early speech production
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Transition to speech
This Your
is your
fis?
fis?
Oh, your fish.
No.No.
…My
my fis!
fis.
Yes, my fis.
Early speech production
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Transition to speech
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Can’t hear the difference?
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Your fis.
Oh, your fish.
Can’t produce the correct
sounds?
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Rejects adult saying fis
This is your fis? No, … my fis.
Sometimes, but evidence
suggests not always the case
More general process of
simplification
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“frees up” resources for
concentrating on other aspects of
language learning
No, my fis.
Yes, my fis.
Early speech production
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Transition to speech
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Early words
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Common Phonological processes
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Reduction
 Delete sounds from words
Coalescence
 Combine different syllables into one syllable
Assimilation
 Change one sound into a similar sound within the
word
Reduplication
 One syllable from a multi-syllabic word is repeated
Learning word meanings
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Learning words
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Fast mapping
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Using the context to guess the meaning of a word
Please give me the chromium tray. Not
the blue one, the chromium one.
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All got the olive tray
Several weeks later still had some of the meaning
Learning word meanings
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Learning words
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Extension
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Finding the appropriate limits of the meaning of
words
Underextension
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applying a word too narrowly
Overextension
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applying a word too broadly
Extensions of meaning
“tee”
Extensions of meaning
“tee”
1:9,11
Extensions of meaning
“tee”
1:9,11
1:10,18
Extensions of meaning
“tee”
1:9,11
1:10,18
1:11,1
“googie”
Extensions of meaning
“tee”
1:9,11
1:10,18
1:11,1
1:11,2
“googie”
Extensions of meaning
“tee”
1:9,11
1:10,18
1:11,1
1:11,2
1:11,24
“googie”
Extensions of meaning
“tee”
1:9,11
1:10,18
1:11,1
1:11,2
“googie”
1:11,24
1:11,25
“tee/hosh”
Extensions of meaning
“tee”
1:9,11
1:10,18
1:11,1
1:11,2
“googie”
1:11,24
1:11,25
1:11,26
“tee/hosh”
“hosh”
Extensions of meaning
“tee”
1:9,11
1:10,18
1:11,1
1:11,2
“googie”
1:11,24
1:11,25
1:11,26
1:11,27
“tee/hosh”
“hosh”
“pushi”
Extensions of meaning
“tee”
1:9,11
1:10,18
1:11,1
1:11,2
“googie”
1:11,24
1:11,25
1:11,26
1:11,27
2:0,10
“tee/hosh”
“hosh”
“moo-ka”
“pushi”
“hosh”
Extensions of meaning
“tee”
1:9,11
1:10,18
1:11,1
1:11,2
“googie”
1:11,24
1:11,25
1:11,26
1:11,27
2:0,10
2:0,20
“tee/hosh”
“hosh”
“moo-ka”
“pushi”
“hosh”
“biggie googie”
Strategies for learning
Things to notice
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One-word-per-referent
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If a new word comes in for a referent that is already
named, replace it
Exception to that was “horse,” but it only lasted a day
here
Strategies for learning
Things to notice
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Over and under Extension can occur at the
same time
Strategies for learning
Things to notice
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Child tries different things, if a word doesn’t work
then try something else
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e.g., hosh didn’t for for the large dog, switched to biggie
doggie
Learning word meanings
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Learning words
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Learning the meanings of words
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Quine’s problem
Whole object
Mutual exclusivity
Indeterminacy: Frog
Frog
Frog?
Green?
Ugly?
Jumping?
Quine’s gavagai problem
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The problem of reference:
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a word may refer to a number of referents (real
world objects)
a single object or event has many objects, parts
and features that can be referred to
Frog
Frog?
Green?
Ugly?
Jumping?
Constraints on Word Learning
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Markman (1989)
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Perhaps children are biased to entertain certain
hypotheses about word meanings over others
These first guesses save them from logical
ambiguity, and keep them logical confusion, and
get them started out on the right track
Strategies for learning
Object-scope (whole object) constraint
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words refer to whole objects rather than to parts of
objects
Taxonomic constraint
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words refer to categories of similar objects
Mutual exclusivity constraint
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each object has one label & different words refer to
separate, non-overlapping categories of objects
Language explosion continues
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The language explosion is not just the result of
simple semantic development; the child is not
just adding more words to his/her vocabulary.
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Child is mastering basic syntactic and
morphological rules.
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PSY 369: Psycholinguistics