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Child Dev. 2012 Nov;83(6):2042-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01816.x. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

Preschoolers' use of talker information in on-line comprehension.

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Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla,CA 92093-0515., USA.


A crucial part of language development is learning how various social and contextual language-external factors constrain an utterance's meaning. This learning process is poorly understood. Five experiments addressed one hundred thirty-one 3- to 5-year-old children's use of one such socially relevant information source: talker characteristics. Participants learned 2 characters' favorite colors; then, those characters asked participants to select colored shapes, as eye movements were tracked. Results suggest that by preschool, children use voice characteristics predictively to constrain a talker's domain of reference, visually fixating the talker's preferred color shapes. Indicating flexibility, children used talker information when the talker made a request for herself but not when she made a request for the other character. Children's ease at using voice characteristics and possible developmental changes are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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