Parents’ responsiveness to infants’ exploratory and communicative behaviors predicts infant word learning during early periods of language development. We examine the processes that might explain why this association exists. We suggest that responsiveness supports infants’ growing pragmatic understanding that language is a tool that enables intentions to be socially shared. Additionally, several features of responsiveness—namely, its temporal contiguity, contingency, and multimodal and didactic content—facilitate infants’ mapping of words to their referents and, in turn, growth in vocabulary. We close by examining the generalizability of these processes to infants from diverse cultural communities.
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