Monolingual and Bilingual Toddlers’ Reliance on the Mutual Exclusivity Principle and Statistics to Learn Colour Labels

AbstractMonolingual toddlers reportedly rely more heavily on the Mutual Exclusivity Principle (MEP) than their age-matched bilingual counterparts when learning new words. Here, we re-visit this issue by testing monolingual and bilingual 24-month-olds’ reliance on the MEP to learn novel colour labels across multiple labelling instances, where cross-situational statistics link a particular label to a particular colour – but not a particular object. In addition, we ask whether the presentation of atypically-coloured objects (e.g., turquoise dogs) may have influenced how readily toddlers attached novel labels to colour terms rather than objects. Thus far, our results demonstrate that monolingual and bilingual toddlers are equally successful in learning colour labels when taught with atypically-coloured objects. However, only bilingual children are able to learn colour labels taught with typically-coloured objects. We conclude that researchers need to carefully consider the richness and statistical input in children’s learning environments to better understand development in diverse language settings.

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