Repetition Across Successive Sentences Facilitates Young Children’s Word Learning

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Young children who hear more child-directed speech (CDS) tend to have larger vocabularies later in childhood, but the specific characteristics of CDS underlying this link are currently underspecified. The present study sought to elucidate how the structure of language input boosts learning by investigating whether repetition of object labels in successive sentences—a common feature of natural CDS—promotes young children’s efficiency in learning new words. Using a looking-while-listening paradigm, 2-year-old children were taught the names of novel objects, with exposures either repeated across successive sentences or distributed throughout labeling episodes. Results showed successful learning only when label-object pairs had been repeated in blocks of successive sentences, suggesting that immediate opportunities to detect recurring structure facilitate young children’s learning. These findings offer insight into how the information flow within CDS might influence vocabulary development, and we consider the findings alongside research showing the benefits of distributing information across time.

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