Abstract: Joint Attention and Vocabulary Development: A Critical Look

AHKTAR, N., & GERNSBACHER, M. A. (2007). Joint attention and vocabulary development: A critical look. Linguistics and Language Compass, 1/3, 195-207.
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Joint attention – parents’ and children’s coordinated attention to each other and to
a third object or event – is believed to play a causal and critical role in early word
learning. However, joint attention, as conventionally defined and measured, relies
only on overt indicators of attention, is studied predominantly in the visual modality,
and varies by culture. Moreover, word learning can occur without joint attention
in typical development, in autistic development, and in Williams syndrome, and
joint attention can occur without commensurate word learning in Down
syndrome. Thus, the assumption that joint attention is a necessary and sufficient
precursor to vocabulary learning is not universally supported.