Early Event Understanding Predicts Later Verb Comprehension and Motion Event Lexicalization
Before infants produce words, they can discriminate changes in motion event components such as manner (how an action is performed) and path (trajectory of an action). Individual differences in nonlinguistic event categorization are related to children's later verb comprehension (Konishi, Stahl, Golinkoff, & Hirsh-Pasek, 2016). We asked: (a) Do infants learning Turkish, a verb-framed language, attend to both manner and path changes in motion events? (b) Is early detection of path and manner related to children's later verb comprehension and (c) how they describe motion events? Thirty-two Turkish-reared children were tested at three time points. At Time 1, infants (M-age = 14.5 months) were tested on their detection of changes in path and manner using the Preferential Looking Paradigm. At Time 2, children were tested on their receptive language skills (M-age = 22.07 months). At Time 3, children performed 3 tasks (M-age = 35.05 months): a verb comprehension task, an event description task depicting motion events with different path and manner combinations, and an expressive language task. The ability to detect changes in event components at Time 1 predicted verb comprehension abilities at Time 3, beyond general receptive and expressive vocabulary skills at Times 2 and 3. Infants who noticed changes in path and manner at Time 1 used fewer manner-only descriptions and more path-any descriptions (i.e., descriptions that included a path component with or without manner) in their speech at Time 3. These findings suggest that early detection of event components is associated not only with verb comprehension, but also with how children lexicalize event components in line with their native language.