Cracking the code: Social and contextual cues to language input in the home environment

Stephanie A. Custode, Catherine Tamis-LeMonda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Infants use social cues like gaze and touch, typically during joint attention with caregivers, to decipher word meaning. Yet, studies on cues to word meaning primarily rely on structured tasks, where distractors are few compared to the countless objects that vie for attention in the home environment. Forty mothers and their 13-month-old infants were video-recorded during home routines. From transcripts, 3,000+ “naming events” were coded for social (visual and manual) and contextual (location: room and place) cues to the object of reference. Mother and infant visual and tactile attention accompanied naming events with high regularity, and the objects mothers named were specific to room and place. Nested social and contextual cues infuse infants’ everyday language experiences in ways that help infants disambiguate word meaning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-826
Number of pages18
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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