Monolingual 2- to 3-Year-Old Children's Understanding of Foreign Words
Objective: This study investigated the age at which monolingual children can understand that different languages are different conventional systems of communication. In particular, we investigated when children can suspend using the mutual exclusivity (ME) assumption that a label solely refers to one category when interpreting novel words from foreign languages. Methods: Two-year-olds (n = 16) and 3-year-olds (n = 16) participated in the procedure, which consisted of three blocks. In the first
... ocks. In the first block, a Korean speaker taught the children a novel word, muppi, referring to a novel object. The children were presented with two objects, muppi and another novel object. The Korean speaker then asked the children to find a referent of either muppi or the other novel Korean label, kkati. In the second block, a foreign language (either English or Spanish) speaker asked children to find the object for a foreign novel word, sefo, presenting two objects: muppi and the third novel object, which had not been presented before. The procedure of the third block was identical to that of the first block. Results: Three-year-olds exploited the ME assumption when interpreting a Korean novel word but not when interpreting a foreign novel word. In contrast, 2-year-old children did not use the ME assumption when interpreting native and foreign words. Conclusion: Children acquire an understanding that native and foreign languages have different words for an object at least by 3 years of age.