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When is a "Neem" not a "Neem"?: The influence of sentence structure on word-object association in infancy Lloyd, Valerie Louise


This research was designed to address the question of whether 14-month old infants’ ability to associate word-object pairings is influenced by sentence structure. Lloyd, Werker, and Cohen (1993) have shown that 14-month old girls notice changes in word-object pairings in an habituation/dishabituation paradigm, but 8-, 10- and 12-month old infants and 14-month old boys do not. Using video images, infants were habituated to two instances of word-object pairings. A set of test trials was then shown: One in which the word-object pairing changed, and one in which it remained the same. The present research used the same habituation/dishabituation procedure in two experiments with 14-month old infants. In Experiment 1 the nonsense words were presented alone, and in Experiment 2 the nonsense words were embedded in a set of carrier phrases. The first critical question was whether the infants would notice that the word-object pairing had been changed. The second critical question was whether this ability varied across conditions: word in isolation vs word in a set of carrier phrases. The results from Experiment 1 provide clear evidence that 14-month old girls, but not boys, are able to make word-object associations when the object labels are presented in isolation. Findings from Experiment 2, in which the target words were presented in a set of carrier phrases, indicate that the particular carrier phrases presented in this study do not facilitate word-learning at this age.

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