Semantic constraints on lexical categories

William Nagy, Dedre Gentner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Children are prodigious word learners, able to gain substantial information about a word's meaning on the basis of even a single encounter with the word in context. Two experiments are reported which test the hypothesis that the notion “possible word meaning” plays a role in constraining the inferences that adult language users make about new words encountered in context. The results indicate that subjects applied implicit knowledge of constraints on possible word meanings in making and evaluating hypotheses about unfamiliar words encountered in context and suggest that implicit knowledge of both universal and language-specific constraints on possible word meanings may contribute to the remarkable speed with which children and adults acquire new words.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-201
JournalLanguage and Cognitive Processes
StatePublished - 1990


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