Events / ILST seminar: Sandy LaTourrette

ILST seminar: Sandy LaTourrette

March 29, 2024
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

3401 Walnut Street, Room 401B, 3401 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

Sandy LaTourrette
University of Pennsylvania


Staying in the moment: When does sentence context benefit word learning?


Infants’ earliest word learning opportunities are often ambiguous, with multiple possible referents present when a novel word is uttered. But as children gain experience with language, the linguistic context of a novel word can help children to correctly identify its meaning. I will present a series of studies examining when and how linguistic context benefits word-learning across development. Our work joins a large body of work in demonstrating that as young as 2 years of age, children rapidly use linguistic context to infer novel word meanings and retain these meanings on an immediate test. However, my work also reveals a sharp limitation on such inferences: children often fail to use linguistic context on one exposure to constrain their referent selections on subsequent exposures. Moreover, even adults struggle to reliably make these cross-exposure inferences. I will present work examining the role of linguistic context in both noun and verb learning, arguing that in both cases, linguistic context may be primarily helpful at the moment of learning, rather than across exposures. I will conclude by discussing the possible advantages of this kind of in-the-moment approach to cross-situational word learning and the broader implications for language acquisition.