Discontinuity of Reference Hinders Children's Learning of New Words

Jessica F. Schwab, Casey Lew-Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


When referring to objects, adults package words, sentences, and gestures in ways that shape children's learning. Here, to understand how continuity of reference shapes word learning, an adult taught new words to 4-year-old children (N = 120) using either clusters of references to the same object or no sequential references to each object. In three experiments, the adult used a combination of labels and other object references, which provided informative discourse (e.g., This is small and green), neutral discourse (e.g., This is really great), or no verbal discourse. Switching verbal references from one object to another interfered with learning relative to providing clustered references to a particular object, revealing that discontinuity in discourse hinders children's encoding of new words.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e29-e41
JournalChild development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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