Parents adaptively use anaphora during parent-child social interaction

Falk, J. J., Zhang, Y., Scheutz, M., & Yu, C. (2021). Parents adaptively use anaphora during parent-child social interaction. In T. Fitch, C. Lamm, H. Leder, & K. TeƟmar-Raible (Eds.), Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2021) (pp. 1472-1478). Vienna: Cognitive Science Society.
Anaphora, a ubiquitous feature of natural language, poses a particular challenge to young children as they first learn language due to its referential ambiguity. In spite of this, parents and caregivers use anaphora frequently in child-directed speech, potentially presenting a risk to effective communication if children do not yet have the linguistic capabilities of resolving anaphora successfully. Through an eye-tracking study in a naturalistic free-play context, we examine the strategies that parents employ to calibrate their use of anaphora to their child's linguistic development level. We show that, in this way, parents are able to intuitively scaffold the complexity of their speech such that greater referential ambiguity does not hurt overall communication success.
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