This study examines infants’ joint attention behavior and language development in a rural village in Nigeria. Participants included eight younger (1;0 to 1;5, M age=1;2) and eight older toddlers (1;7 to 2;7, M age=2; 1). Joint attention behaviors in social interaction contexts were recorded and coded at two time points six months apart. Analyses revealed that these toddlers were producing more high-level joint attention behaviors than less complex behaviors. In addition, the quality and quantity of behaviors produced by these Nigerian children was similar to those found in other cultures. In analyses of children’s noun and verb comprehension and production (in relation to the number of nouns or verbs on a parental checklist), parents reported proportionally more verbs than nouns, perhaps because Ngas has some linguistic characteristics that are similar to languages in which a noun bias is not seen (e.g. Mandarin Chinese). An examination of the interrelations of joint attention and language development revealed that joint attention behaviors were related to both noun and verb development at different times. The set of results is important for understanding the emergence of joint attention in traditional cultures, the comprehension and production of nouns and verbs given the specific linguistic properties of a language and the importance that early social contexts may have for language development.
Childers, Jane B.; Vaughan, Julie; and Burquest, Donald A., "Joint attention and word learning in Ngas-speaking toddlers in Nigeria" (2006). Psychology Faculty Research. Paper 18.
Journal of Child Language. 33 (2006), 1-27. doi:10.1017/S0305000906007835