A matter of time: Novel nouns mark object categories when delays are imposed

Sandra R. Waxman*, Murat Philippe, Amy Branning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In previous work, preschool-aged children have revealed a specific expectation that novel count nouns (but not adjectives) will refer to object categories (but not to object properties or to thematic relations). However, in these tasks, children have been permitted to extend a novel word immediately after it has been introduced. The current experiments test the hypothesis that the noun-category bias is sufficiently robust to hold up even when a delay is imposed between a naming episode and the child's opportunity for extension. To capture this phenomenon experimentally, we imposed delays of 30 s (Experiment 1) and 1 h (Experiment 2). Across both delay conditions, children in a 'novel noun' condition revealed a strong inclination to consistently choose other members of the same object category as the (previously named) target. Children in either a 'novel adjective' or 'no word' condition revealed no taxonomic inclination. These results establish the power of the noun-category bias in situations that more closely approximate some of the very real challenges that children face in mapping and extending novel words.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-66
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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