Lexical Complexity of Child-Directed and Overheard Speech: Implications for Learning

Ruthe Foushee, Thomas L. Griffiths, Mahesh Srinivasan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although previous studies have found a link between the quantity and quality of child-directed speech learners receive and their vocabulary development, no previous studies have found a parallel link between overheard speech measured at a very young age and vocabulary development (Shneidman & Goldin-Meadow, 2012; Shneidman, Arroyo, Levine, & Goldin-Meadow, 2013; Weisleder & Fernald, 2013). This is despite the fact that children are able to learn words from overheard speech in laboratory settings (Shneidman & Woodward, 2015). Drawing on the idea that children preferentially attend to stimuli that are at a manageable level of complexity (Kidd, Piantadosi, & Aslin, 2012, 2014), the present research explores the possibility that children do not initially tune into overheard speech because it is initially too complex for their stage of lexical development (i.e., contains too great a proportion of unfamiliar words). Using transcripts from CHILDES and the Santa Barbara Corpus, and estimates of vocabulary by age from the MB-CDI, we find that child-directed speech is significantly less complex than overheard speech through at least 30 months. If attention based on complexity at least partially accounts for the statistical independence of overheard speech and vocabulary development in early childhood, then children might only begin learning from more complex, overheard speech sometime after 30 months.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2016
EditorsAnna Papafragou, Daniel Grodner, Daniel Mirman, John C. Trueswell
PublisherThe Cognitive Science Society
Pages1697-1702
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780991196739
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Recognizing and Representing Events, CogSci 2016 - Philadelphia, United States
Duration: Aug 10 2016Aug 13 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2016

Conference

Conference38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Recognizing and Representing Events, CogSci 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityPhiladelphia
Period8/10/168/13/16

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Keywords

  • attention
  • corpus analysis
  • lexical development

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