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Teaching verbs through child-directed speech: Are mothers doing it right?

Brough, Jessica (2016) Teaching verbs through child-directed speech: Are mothers doing it right? University of Bath. (Unpublished)


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Compared to learning nouns, infants struggle with verb learning and there is limited evidence to indicate whether caregivers are making this process easier through child- directed speech. An infant’s ability to learn a new verb is largely affected by the time it is verbalised and when the related action is performed; much evidence supports hearing verbs in non-ostensive contexts (when the action is impending or has recently been completed) to be more beneficial for learning than hearing verbs ostensively (while the action is ongoing). American mother-child play of 18 dyads was coded for maternal verb utterances and related action performance, with dyads categorised by three infant age groups: 6, 12 and 19 months-old. The results did not reflect the findings of previous literature (Tomasello & Kruger, 1992); approximately 61% of maternal verb utterances labelled ongoing actions, 25% labelled impending actions and 14% labelled actions that had just been completed more movement-focused verbs in the completed and ongoing conditions than result- focused verbs, with movement-focused verbs more frequently labelling ongoing actions than impending or completed actions. Similar differences between conditions for result-focused verbs did not reach significance. These findings suggest that children are not hearing verbs at the supposed optimum time for learning and maternal. Mothers uttered significantly action labelling differs depending on verb-type

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