12,000

We have over 12,000 students, from over 100 countries, within one of the safest campuses in the UK

93%

93% of Lancaster students go into work or further study within six months of graduating

Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Electrophysiological Evidence for the Understan...
View graph of relations

« Back

Electrophysiological Evidence for the Understanding of Maternal Speech by 9-Month-Old Infants

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date07/2012
JournalPsychological Science
Journal number7
Volume23
Number of pages6
Pages728-733
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Early word learning in infants relies on statistical, prosodic, and social cues that support speech segmentation and the attachment of meaning to words. It is debated whether such early word knowledge represents mere associations between sound patterns and visual object features, or reflects referential understanding of words. By measuring an event-related brain potential component known as the N400, we demonstrated that 9-month-old infants can detect the mismatch between an object appearing from behind an occluder and a preceding label with which their mother introduces it. Differential N400 amplitudes have been shown to reflect semantic priming in adults, and its absence in infants has been interpreted as a sign of associative word learning. By setting up a live communicative situation for referring to objects, we demonstrated that a similar priming effect also occurs in young infants. This finding may indicate that word meaning is referential from the outset of word learning and that referential expectation drives, rather than results from, vocabulary acquisition in humans.