The Use of Iconic Words in Early Child-Parent Interactions

Abstract

This paper examines the use of iconic words in early conversations between children and caregivers. The longitudinal data include a span of six observations of 35 children-parent dyads in the same semi-structured activity. Our findings show that children’s speech initially has a high proportion of iconic words, and over time, these words become diluted by an increase of arbitrary words. Parents’ speech is also initially high in iconic words, with a decrease in the proportion of iconic words over time – in this case driven by the use of fewer iconic words. The level and development of iconicity are related to individual differences in the children’s cognitive skills. Our findings fit with the hypothesis that iconicity facilitates early word learning and may play an important role in learning to produce new words.


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