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Verbs in mothers’ input to six-month-olds: synchrony between presentation, meaning, and actions is related to later verb acquisition

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In embodied theories on language, it is widely accepted that experience in acting generates an expectation of this action when hearing the word for it. However, how this expectation emerges during language acquisition is still not well understood. Assuming that the intermodal presentation of information facilitates perception, prior research had suggested that early in infancy, mothers perform their actions in temporal synchrony with language. Further research revealed that this synchrony is a form of multimodal responsive behavior related to the child’s later language development. Expanding on these findings, this article explores the relationship between action–language synchrony and the acquisition of verbs. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, we analyzed the coordination of verbs and action in mothers’ input to six-month-old infants and related these maternal strategies to the infants’ later production of verbs. We found that the verbs used by mothers in these early interactions were tightly coordinated with the ongoing action and very frequently responsive to infant actions. It is concluded that use of these multimodal strategies could significantly predict the number of spoken verbs in infants’ vocabulary at 24 months.
Original languageEnglish
Article number52
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2017


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