East and West: A Role for Culture in the Acquisition of Nouns and Verbs

Tracy A. Lavin*, D. Geoffrey Hall, Sandra R. Waxman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


This chapter presents a multifactor view of word learning, opting for a social explanation based in cultural factors. Using a modification of Gillette and Gleitman's human simulation paradigm, researchers asked adult subjects (Western students, Japanese students, and second-generation Japanese students) to guess the words an American mother was saying to her child in the play scenes. They did not specify the form class of the word to be supplied. The general prediction was that Japanese students would focus on actions more than nouns and vice versa for the Western students. They found that all three groups identified more nouns than verbs but that this effect was more pronounced with the Western students. However, there were no differences in the number of correct matches for nouns between the three groups or for the accuracy of the verbs guessed. These results suggest that cultural factors may indeed influence the English-speaking child to learn more nouns than verbs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAction Meets Word
Subtitle of host publicationHow Children Learn Verbs
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199893300
ISBN (Print)0195170008, 9780195170009
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010


  • Acquisition of nouns
  • Cultural factors
  • Human simulation paradigm
  • Word learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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