Learning conventions and conventionality through conversation

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Despite assumptions that children learn linguistic and behavioral conventions through socialization, a systematic account of this developmental process is lacking. We ask how well existing evidence supports a sociocultural account explaining how children learn what is conventional, and that meanings are conventional. Specifically, we consider empirical support for two hypotheses: that parents provide systematic cues regarding conventions and conventionality to children, and that children learn from these cues. Considering research involving conventional word meanings, object uses, and social behaviors, we find impressive support for both hypotheses. Parent-child conversations may support children’s expectation that people within a community tend to know and use the same words, and have similar knowledge and expectations. Finally we discuss ongoing controversies and future research ideas.


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