Infants' use of category labels and intonation in reference resolution
Osina, Maria Alexandrovna
The purpose of the current two studies is to investigate infants’ access to and their use of two sources of information when establishing common ground with the speaker. In study 1, I investigate infants’ access to shared linguistic evidence through understanding words as category labels. In study 2, I investigate infants’ access to shared perceptual evidence and their ability to use speaker’s intonation during a request to identify referents. The findings from Study 1, suggest that infants as young as16-months understand words as category labels. When hearing a reference to an absent object they consider multiple tokens belonging to the same category as potential referents. They also appear to call to mind categorically related objects as well as some key perceptual features that characterize typical tokens of the given category. The findings from Study 2 suggest that infants starting at 20 months are not only able to keep track of people’s experiences with objects, but also can take into account the intonation of an ambiguous request to infer if a new or a familiar object is the intended referent. Infants generalize their understanding of the excited intonation as linked to seeing new stuff to situations when the speaker had previously demonstrated excitement about a familiar object. Overall, between 16 and 20 months, infants undergo a dramatic development in their ability to use knowledge of objects and people in making sense of referentially ambiguous situations.