Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 February 2009
A modelling experiment was conducted to determine if children would benefit from observing speech not addressed to them in discovering the correct use of first and second pronouns. Imitative behaviours of 18 English-speaking children who were about to learn personal pronouns were analysed under two modelling conditions. The non-addressee condition provided the child with systematic opportunities to observe the parents saying me/you with pointing actions directed towards each other as well as the parents saying me/you with pointing action directed towards the child. The addressee condition provided the child only with systematic opportunities to observe the parents saying me/you with pointing actions directed towards the child. Only children in the non-addressee condition imitated their parents' pointing actions and use of me/you without errors, suggesting that even children under two years old can attend to and can learn from speech not addressed to them.
This research was supported by a Doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to Yuriko Oshima-Takane, by a McGill University Social Sciences Research Grant to Dr John Macnamara, and by grant # A6394 fron Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to Dr Yoshio Takane. A portion of this paper was presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Toronto, 1985. I wish to thank Drs John Macnamara, Thomas Shultz, Andrew Baker, Gloria Water, Susanne McKenzie and Yoshio Takane for their advice and comments; Miss Farla Klaiman for her assistance in transcribing the audiotapes of the children's speech. I also wish to thank Drs Morton Mendelson, Jeffery Derevensky, the directors of McGill Family and Community Center and the YMCA for recruiting the subjects; and finally the parents and children for their cooperation in this research.