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ERIC Number: ED257578
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1985-Apr
Pages: 11
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Constraints on the Meanings of Words.
Soja, N.; And Others
Between their second and fifth years, young children learn approximately 15 new words a day. For every word the child hears, he or she must choose the correct referent out of an infinite set of candidates. An important problem for developmental psychologists is to understand the principles that limit the child's hypotheses about word meanings. A total of 24 children, mean age 2 years and 1 month, were taught new nouns referring to objects and nonsolid substances. In one condition, the syntax used by the experimenter selected for either a count or a mass noun. In another condition, the syntax was not selective. The subjects' interpretation of the newly taught word was evaluated through a pointing procedure. Results revealed that children's inferences about word reference were dependent upon the status of the stimulus as an object, regardless of the presence or absence of selective syntax. If the stimulus was an object, the word was assumed to be a sortal term referring to a type of object. If the stimulus was not an object, it was considered to be a type of substance. Two considerations suggest that use of the concept of object in assigning word reference does not depend on the subject's knowledge of count/mass syntax. First, the results from the two conditions were equivalent. Second, performance in the task was independent of production of count/mass syntax, as analyzed from speech samples collected from each child. (Author/RH)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Researchers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A