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Chapter 5

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Cara Tsang

183-219 Ch.5: Lexical development: learning words Lexical Knowledge in Adults The Mental lexicon -mental lexicon: knowledge of words that adults have What Is A Word? -word: symbol. It stand for something without being part of that something. The relation between words and what they stand for is arbitrary. Can be sued to refer to things -reference: a word to be sued consistently in combination with a particular object is not sufficient to qualify that word use as referential The course of early lexial development First words -first words may be harder to distinguish from earlier protowords described in the previous chapter on phonological development. The critical difference is that although protowords are sound sequences that seem to have consistent meaning for the child, the particular sounds of protowords are not derived in any obvious way from the language the child is learning. In contrast, the firs towards are approximations of words in the target language, even if somewhat rough approximations -First words may be context bound. Like the protowords that preceded them, the first words children use may be tied to particular contexts -on the basis of data from hundreds of American and Italian children, Caselli and colleagues concluded that children’s first words may always be parts of routine or language games. Such specific or function specific understandngs of word use are crucially different from adult’s mental representations of words as symbols that refer Is there a prelexical stage of word use -because the understanding of word meaning that seems to underlie children’s early context-bound words is so different from adults’ mental representations of word meanings, some have argued that these context bound words are not really words at all. Suggesting these words are merely responses elicited by particular environment conditions (prelexical) First words can also be referential -Harris and colleagues categorized the children’s first words into three groups. -The largest group was context-bound words -Nominals (names for things) came in second -the smallest group was contextually flexible words (can be used in more than one context) Why are some words context bound and others referential -remember referential means not bound to one context -why arent’t all words referential from the beginning if they can be from the start? -possibly due to limited understanding -limited experience Context-bound words become decontextualized -words that are at frist context bound gradually become decontextualized -studies of early ages shows that children start out with atleast two kinds of lexixal entries for the words they use 1. situation specific 2.more adult like. A word encodes a meaning Vocabulary development from first words to 50 words -achieve 50 wrds between 15 to 24 months (usually 18) -study of the first 50 words showed 1. the most common were specific nominal (ex. Mommy) 2. general nominal (dog, ball) 3. action words (go, up, look) 4. modifiers (all gone, big, mine) 5. personal social words (no, want, please) 6. the least common was grammatical function words (what, is, for) Vocabularies at the 50-world mark -childrens first words represent their experience -include routines, names for common things they see, verbs with more general meanigns that they use often (example. up) -dominated by nouns (45% of first 50 words) What determines the context of early vocabularies -children acquire nouns before verbs because the meanings nouns encode are easier for children to learn than are meanings verbs encode -nouns refer to entities or things and young children can have an understanding of things based on their perception of the physical world. Verbs on the other hand, express relationships among things, and these relational meanings are less available to young children though nonlinguistic experience -natural partitions hypothesis: physical world makes obvious the things that takes nouns as labels, whereas the meanings that verbs encode have to be figured out from hearing the verb in use -relational relativity hypothesis: the reason verb meanings must be figured out from the use is that they do not naturally emerge from the structure of the world, leaving open the possibility that verb meanings will vary from language to language -in support of this view, Gentner refers to linguistic work showing that noun meanings are more similar across language than are verb meanings -summary: according to the natural partitions and relational relativity hypothesis, in learning nouns children need only learn the labels for means they already have, whereas in learning verbs children have to figure out how meaning is packaged by their language -a different hypothesis attributes the source of the noun bias in children’s early vocabularies to the nature of children’s early understanding of how types of words and types of meanings are linked. According to this view , children understand that certain kinds of nouns label objects at the very beginning of language acquisition. Understand that other kinds of words are linked with other kinds of meanings (adjectives) comes later. Children’s first words are the words they first know how to link meanings -also been argued that the child’s cognitive or linguistic understandings have nothing to do with why some words are acquired earlier than others. Rather it si a language-learning problem -easiest words to learn through observation are nouns -another relevant factor has to do with how the particular language being acquired illustrated nouns and verbs -children acquiring Korean, Japanese, and Mandarin (Chinese) show less of a noun bias than do children acquiring English -in these languages, a verb is often the final word in a sentence, and this position may be particularly salient (noticeable ) to children. -also the grammars of these languages allow noun dropping, thus making verbs relatively more frequent in the input -class and culture also affect children’s vocabulary -American mothers spend a great deal of time labeling objects for their babies/ Japanese mother do so much less frequently Overextensions and Underextensions of first words -underextensions: using a word in more restricted fashion -overextensions: overly broad uses -overextensions are highly variable -overextensions are very noticeable when they occur, but they are actually not very common -good evidence that overextensions occur for reasons other than incomplete word meanings -one possibility why a child might call a horse a dog is that the child really thinks the word for horse is dog -supporting this view what that incidences of overextensions decline as children acquire more differentiated vocabularies The
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