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Counting nouns and verbs in the input: differential frequencies, different kinds of learning?

  • CATHERINE M. SANDHOFER (a1), LINDA B. SMITH (a1) and JUN LUO (a2)

Abstract

Previous research has focused on evaluating the nouns and verbs in parents' input through type/token ratios. This research offers an additional means of evaluating parent speech by first examining the frequencies of individual nouns, verbs and descriptors and second examining the learning task presented to children. Study 1 examines 25 transcripts from the CHILDES database of English-speaking parents' speech to children at five developmental levels ranging from 0;11 to 2;11 in age. Study 2 examines 50 transcripts from the CHILDES database of Mandarin-speaking caregivers' speech to children ranging from 1;9 to 2;3 in age. The results suggest that the patterns of frequency for individual nouns and individual verbs are different, but that the frequency patterns for nouns and the frequency patterns for verbs are similar in English and Mandarin. Further, this research suggests that in both languages the nouns in parents' input are similarly organized: the most frequent nouns spoken to children tend to name solid objects that share a similar shape. In contrast verbs' meanings in both languages tend to include more variable conceptual relations.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Catherine M. Sandhofer, Department of Psychology, Indiana University, 1101 East 10th Street, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA; e-mail: csandhof@indiana.edu

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This study was supported in part by grant from NIMH (MH6200) to the second author. We thank Larissa Samuelson for helpful comments and advice on judging nouns and verbs.

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Counting nouns and verbs in the input: differential frequencies, different kinds of learning?

  • CATHERINE M. SANDHOFER (a1), LINDA B. SMITH (a1) and JUN LUO (a2)

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