“We know that children use a lot of different information sources in their social environment, including their own knowledge, to learn new words. But the picture that emerges from the existing research is that children have a bag of tricks that they can use”, says Manuel Bohn, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
For example, if you show a child an object they already know – say a cup – as well as an object they have never seen before, the child will usually think that a word they never heard before belongs with the new object. Why? Children use information in the form of their existing knowledge of words (the thing you drink out of is called a “cup”) to infer that the object that doesn’t have a name goes with the name that doesn’t have an object. Other information comes from the social context: children remember past interactions with a speaker to find out what they are likely to talk about next.
“But in the real world, children learn words in complex social settings in which more than just one type of information is available. They have to use their knowledge of words while interacting with a speaker. Word learning always requires integrating multiple, different information sources”, Bohn continues. An open question is how children combine different, sometimes even conflicting, sources of information. [Read more…] about How children integrate information