Quick incidental learning of manner-of-motion verbs in young children: Acquisition and representation


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Abstract (summary)

Verbs are necessary for children to learn because they carry important syntactic and semantic information that is not found elsewhere. However, within contexts of indirect exposure, verbs appear to be more difficult to acquire than other word types. The present study examined the abilities of young children to learn new verbs within an indirect teaching context that was designed to facilitate acquisition by reducing the cognitive demands of earlier quick incidental word learning studies Forty 4-year-olds were shown a story of two teenagers going to school. The teenagers performed 5 different real manner-of-motion verbs; frolic, saunter, scurry, strut, and trudge. Children placed in the experimental (N = 20) heard the label of each verb 13 times while those in the control group (N = 20) saw the same actions but did not hear the labels. The performances of these two groups were compared to each other and to a group of adults (N = 22), who did not view the videotaped story but presumably had prior knowledge of the verbs. Three aspects of verb knowledge were evaluated; identification, strength of the connection between verb's spoken label and it's associated movement, and generalization to other similar movements. The experimental group correctly identified the target verbs, on two separate trials, with 35% accuracy. This performance was significantly correlation with the children's age. Although the control group identified the target action significantly less often (2%), they fast mapped the target verbs' spoken forms to unlabeled actions as often as the experimental group connected the labels to the correct actions. The experimental group's identification performance was significantly lower than the adult's (65%). The children in the experimental group who learned more than half of the target verbs (N = 6) maintained their initial connections between the spoken label and movement better an age matched subgroup of control children (N = 9), but not as well as the adults. The experimental subgroup also generalized the verbs to very similar actions, while demonstrating that there are limits as to how much a movement can be changed and still represent the same verb. These results are explained by recognizing that as children acquire more specifically defined words, they must modify the boundaries of existing general action labels.

Indexing (details)

Quick incidental learning of manner-of-motion verbs in young children: Acquisition and representation
Brackenbury, Tim11Department of Communication Disorders, College of Health and Human Services, Bowling Green State University
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Brackenbury, Tim 
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