The intersensory origins of word comprehension: An ecological-dynamic systems view

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How do infants begin to understand spoken words? Recent research suggests that word comprehension develops from the early detection of intersensory relations between conventionally paired auditory speech patterns (words) and visible objects or actions. More importantly, in keeping with dynamic systems principles, the findings suggest that word comprehension develops from a dynamic and complementary relationship between the organism (the infant) and the environment (language addressed to the infant). In addition, parallel findings from speech and non-speech studies of intersensory perception provide evidence for domain general processes in the development of word comprehension. These research findings contrast with the view that a lexical acquisition device with specific lexical principles and innate constraints is required for early word comprehension. Furthermore, they suggest that learning of word-object relations is not merely an associative process. The data support an alternative view of the developmental process that emphasizes the dynamic and reciprocal interactions between general intersensory perception, selective attention and learning in infants, and the specific characteristics of maternal communication.



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