The Words Children Learn

Bloom, Lois; Tinker, Erin; Margulis, Cheryl

The focus of this study of early word learning was on the status of object words in early vocabularies because of the considerable emphasis given to nouns or object names in both traditional part-of-speech analyses and more recent theory and research on lexical principles. Fourteen children were followed from 9 months to 2 years of age, and monthly vocabulary growth was analyzed with the children equated for both onset and achievement in word learning. The main result was that object words represented approximately one third, on average, of the different words the children learned. Nouns could be considered the largest part of speech in their vocabularies only if other part-of-speech category assignments are valid or even possible—neither of which is the case for presyntactic vocabularies. Object-specific lexical principles cannot explain word learning, if most of the words a child learns are other than names for objects. More general principles are needed, such as the Principle of Relevance offered here, for determining how a presyntactic child learns any kind of word.


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Cognitive Development

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Academic Units
Human Development
Published Here
November 4, 2016