Scientific American Mind:
Twila Tardif, a linguist at the University of Michigan, remembers the day she and her Mandarin-speaking babysitter watched as Tardif’s 11-month-old daughter crawled over to a pen that had just fallen on the floor and pointed to it. “Pen!” Tardif told her daughter in Mandarin just as her sitter said, “Grab!” also in Mandarin. Then they looked at each other in puzzlement. Tardif realized that caregivers in different cultures might be influencing which words babies learn first.
Tardif’s earlier work had shown that English-speaking children learn nouns first, almost exclusively, whereas Mandarin-speaking children’s early spoken vocabulary has many more verbs than nouns. Babies’ early comprehension follows the same pattern, but the difference is not as extreme.
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