Word learning is 'smart': Evidence that conceptual information affects preschoolers' extension of novel words

Amy E. Booth*, Sandra R Waxman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

97 Scopus citations

Abstract

Two experiments document that conceptual knowledge influences 3-year-olds' extension of novel words. In Experiment 1, when objects were described as having conceptual properties typical of artifacts, children extended novel labels for these objects on the basis of shape alone. When the very same objects were described as having conceptual properties typical of animate kinds, children extended novel labels for these objects on the basis of both shape and texture. Moreover, providing a salient perceptual cue (Experiment 2) did not interfere with children's reliance on conceptual information in extending novel words: when an object with eyes was labeled with a novel word in the context of a story describing the object as an artifact, children extended the label on the basis of shape alone (i.e. as though the object were an artifact). These results, which challenge directly the position that 'dumb attentional mechanisms' can account for word learning, stand as evidence for the central role of conceptual information in mapping words to meaning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCognition
Volume84
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 25 2002

Keywords

  • Concept development
  • Language acquisition
  • Word learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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