Young toddlers' word comprehension is flexible and efficient.
Much of what is known about word recognition in toddlers comes from eyetracking studies. Here we show that the speed and facility with which children recognize words, as revealed in such studies, cannot be attributed to a task-specific, closed-set strategy; rather, children's gaze to referents of spoken nouns reflects successful search of the lexicon. Toddlers' spoken word comprehension was examined in the context of pictures that had two possible names (such as a cup of juice which could be called "cup" or "juice") and pictures that had only one likely name for toddlers (such as "apple"), using a visual world eye-tracking task and a picture-labeling task (n = 77, mean age, 21 months). Toddlers were just as fast and accurate in fixating named pictures with two likely names as pictures with one. If toddlers do name pictures to themselves, the name provides no apparent benefit in word recognition, because there is no cost to understanding an alternative lexical construal of the picture. In toddlers, as in adults, spoken words rapidly evoke their referents.
Bergelson, E; Swingley, D
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