Sound Symbolism Facilitates Infants to Learn Adjectives

[Speaker] Hu, You-hsin:1
[Co-author] Tsao, Feng-ming:1
1:National Taiwan University (Taiwan)

Sound symbolism means a nonabitrary relationship between language sounds and meaning. It facilitates infants to establish word-referent associations, but previous studies suggested that facilitating effect is the result of category learning rather than individual word learning. Present study investigated whether sound symbolism facilitates infants learning adjective words with similar sounds. Mandarin-learning 11-month-old infants (n=32) and 17-month-infants (n=32) were tested in a switch task of word learning. The two words /deng/-/deng/ (means "long" and having longer duration) and /dei/-/dei/ (means "short" and having shorter duration) of Taiwanese, a unfamiliar language to infants, were paired with picture of a long bar and a short bar to construct two conditions: "sound-symbolically matched" and "sound-symbolically mismatched". Results showed that only 17-month-old infants in sound-symbolically matched condition detected changes between word and referent mapping, F(1,15)=7.11, p=.02, ηp2=.32. Results suggest that size sound symbolism assists infants to learn size adjectives.
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