Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Word learning from object, speaker and environm...

Electronic data

  • 2015fieldphd

    Final published version, 2.1 MB, PDF document

    Available under license: CC BY-NC-ND

View graph of relations

Word learning from object, speaker and environmental cues in typically developing children, children with autism spectrum disorder and children with other developmental disorders.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2015
Number of pages312
Awarding Institution
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis explored whether children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) learn the names of artefacts when abstracting information from the objects themselves (Studies One and Two: shape and function bias), a speaker (Study Three: gaze and pointing cues) or the environment (Study Four: arrow and light cues). A final study assessed the relative weighting of conflicting speaker and environmental cues (Study Five). Control groups of typically developing (TD) children and children with other developmental disorders (DD) were also included. In order to tease apart whether word learning is delayed or deviant in ASD and if this extends to DD children, each study recruited participants with a wide range of receptive language abilities. The participants were subdivided into ‘high verbal mental age’ (VMA) and ‘low VMA’ categories. Children with ASD were found to be delayed in some aspects of language acquisition; specifically in showing a shape bias and learning words from eye gaze and pointing. They failed to learn words from one type of associative cue (light), but learnt words from a directional arrow at the same age as their TD peers. Furthermore, they showed a function bias at an earlier age than TD children. Interestingly, the DD cohort also showed substantial word learning deficits. They were delayed learning words from eye gaze and deviant learning words using functional information and some types of social and associative cues. Overall, this research contributes to our understanding of the pathways of language acquisition across typical and atypical development.