ABSTRACT

How do infants and toddlers learn to talk about objects? We know that concrete visual objects like CUP, BALL, and SPOON are among the first-named objects (Caselli et al., 1995; Gentner & Boroditsky, 2001). We know a lot about how what young learners hear shapes what they say (Goodman, Dale, & Li, 2008; Snow & Ferguson, 1977; Weisleder & Fernald, 2013). Research on the early stages of language learning has focused on language input and how infants find words within a speech stream ( Jusczyk & Aslin, 1995; Saffran, Aslin, & Newport, 1996). However, we know very little about how what children see matters for their language achievements. In this chapter, we first review key points regarding visual learning that are relevant to early language learning, including how children segment and attend to visual objects. We then review evidence about children’s egocentric views of objects and their relevance for language learning. We conclude the chapter by discussing two new directions – the role of language in creating visual experiences and atypical language development – for language learning research grounded in these recent discoveries about visual objects as they are encountered by young language learners.