Quick Incidental Verb Learning in 4-Year-Olds: Identification and Generalization

Brackenbury, Tim; Fey, Marc E.
April 2003
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Apr2003, Vol. 46 Issue 2, p313
Academic Journal
This study examined the abilities of young children to identify and generalize new verbs from an indirect teaching context. Forty 4-year-olds were shown a story that presented the following manner-of-motion verbs: frolic, saunter, scurry, strut, and trudge. The experimental group ( N = 20) heard the label of each verb 13 times while viewing the story, whereas the control group ( N = 20) did not hear the verbs' 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 story but presumably had prior knowledge of the verbs. The experimental group correctly identified the target verbs in their prototypical form significantly more often than the control group but less often than the adult group. Generalization measures were evaluated for the children in the experimental group who correctly identified more than half of the target verbs ( N = 6), their age-matched control group peers ( N = 9), and the adult group. The experimental subgroup and the adults correctly generalized the verb labels to actions in which unimportant motion features had been altered. However, unlike the adult group, the experimental subgroup responded inconsistently to generalization questions in which important movement features of the actions had been altered. These results suggest that, even in their initial representations of manner-of-motion verbs, young children are sensitive to the relative importance of the different movements that make up these actions.


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