Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Parents' use of conventional and unconventional labels in conversations with their preschoolers*

  • ANNETTE M. E. HENDERSON (a1) and MARK A. SABBAGH (a2)
Abstract

Parents' use of conventional versus unconventional labels with their two- (n=12), three- (n=12) and four-year-old children (n=12) was assessed as they talked about objects that were either known or unknown to them. For known objects, parents provided typical conventional labels casually during the conversation. For unknown objects, parents were less likely to use typical nouns as labels and marked their labels with additional information suggesting that the labels might be unconventional. Parents marked potentially unconventional labels by providing explicit statements of ignorance and paralinguistic cues of uncertainty. These patterns were strongest when the unknown objects were manufactured as opposed to homemade, possibly because manufactured objects are supposed to have conventional names that parents were unable to provide. Parents' marking of unconventional labels may help children recognize when new word forms should be treated with caution and guide their learning accordingly.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Annette M. E. Henderson, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. e-mail: a.henderson@auckland.ac.nz
Footnotes
Hide All
[*]

We would like to extend our gratitude to the parents and children who volunteered their time to participate in this research. We would also like to thank the research assistants who helped with transcribing and coding of the data: R. DiGiovanni, L. Hong, M. K. Friedman, C. Lang, S. Lue and N. Strang. A special thank you to M. Hurt for her assistance with graphics. We would like to thank the members of the Early Experience Laboratory and the Infant and Child Development Group at Queen's University for their helpful comments on this research. Lastly, we would like to thank N. Akhtar, K. Munhall, S. Fitneva, E. Kelley and A. Woodward for their comments on a previous version of this manuscript. This research was supported by a graduate scholarship awarded to A. M. E. Henderson from the Natural Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and an operating grant awarded to M. A. Sabbagh from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Birch, S. A. & Bloom, P. (2002). Preschoolers are sensitive to the speaker's knowledge when learning proper names. Child Development 73, 434–44.
Bruner, J. (1983). Child's talk: Learning to use language. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Buresh, J. S. & Woodward, A. L. (2007). Infants track action goals within and across agents. Cognition 104, 287314.
Callanan, M. (1985). How parents label objects for young children: The role of input in the acquisition of category hierarchies. Child Development 56, 508523.
Callanan, M. & Sabbagh, M. A. (2004). Multiple labels for objects in conversations with young children: Parents' language and children's developing expectations about word meanings. Developmental Psychology 40, 746–63.
Clark, E. V. (1983). Meanings and concepts. In Flavell, J. H. & Markman, E. M. (eds), Handbook of child psychology (Volume 3). Cognitive Development, 787840. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Clark, E. V. (1993). The lexicon in acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Clark, E. V. (2007). Conventionality and contrast in language and language acquisition. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development 115, 1123.
Clark, H. H. & Fox-Tree, J. E. (2002). Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking. Cognition 84, 73–111.
Cleave, P. L. & Bird, E. K.-R. (2006). Effects of familiarity on mothers' talk about nouns and verbs. Journal of Child Language 33, 661–76.
Clément, F., Koenig, M. & Harris, P. (2004). The ontogenesis of trust. Mind & Language 19, 360–79.
Fernald, A. & Morikawa, H. (1993). Common themes and cultural variations in Japanese and American mothers' speech to infants. Child Development 64, 637–56.
Graham, S. A., Stock, H. & Henderson, A. M. E. (2006). Nineteen-month-olds' understanding of the conventionality of object labels versus desires. Infancy 9, 341–50.
Hall, D. G., Burns, T. C. & Pawluski, J. L. (2003). Input and word learning: Caregivers' sensitivity to lexical category distinctions. Journal of Child Language 30, 711–29.
Hart, B. & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experiences of young American children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
Henderson, A. M. E. & Graham, S. A. (2005). Two-year-olds' appreciation of the shared nature of novel object labels. Journal of Cognition and Development 6, 381402.
Henderson, A. M. E., Woodward, A. L., Bonny, J., Smith, J. & Perez Rojas, A. (2009). Do 9-month-olds appreciate the shared nature of new linguistic forms? Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Denver, Colorado.
Hoff, E. (2003). The specificity of environmental influence: Socioeconomic status affects early vocabulary development via maternal speech. Child Development 74, 1368–78.
Hoff-Ginsberg, E. (1991). Mother–child conversations in different social classes and communicative settings. Child Development 62, 782–96.
Koenig, M. A., Clément, F. & Harris, P. L. (2004). Trust in testimony: Children's use of true and false statements. Psychological Science 15, 694–98.
Koenig, M. A. & Harris, P. L. (2005). Preschoolers mistrust ignorant and inaccurate speakers. Child Development 76, 1261–77.
Masur, E. F. (1997). Maternal labeling of novel and familiar objects: Implications for children's development of lexical constraints. Journal of Child Language 24, 427–39.
Ninio, A. (1983). Joint book-reading as a multiple vocabulary acquisition device. Developmental Psychology 19, 445–51.
Ninio, A. & Bruner, J. (1978). The achievement and antecedents of labeling. Journal of Child Language 5, 115.
Pan, B. A., Rowe, M. L., Singer, J. D. & Snow, C. E. (2005). Maternal correlates in toddler vocabulary production in low-income families. Child Development 76, 763–82.
Sabbagh, M. A. & Baldwin, D. A. (2001). Learning words from knowledgeable versus ignorant speakers: Links between preschoolers' theory of mind and semantic development. Child Development 72, 10541070.
Sabbagh, M. A. & Callanan, M. (1998). Metarepresentation in action: 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds' developing theories of mind in parent–child conversations. Developmental Psychology 34, 491502.
Sabbagh, M. A. & Henderson, A. M. E. (2007). How an appreciation of conventionality shapes early word learning. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development 115, 2537.
Sabbagh, M. A., Wdowiak, S. D. & Ottaway, J. M. (2003). Do word learners ignore ignorant speakers? Journal of Child Language 30, 905924.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed