Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2015

Keywords

word learning, lexical development, syntactic bootstrapping, semantic networks

Abstract

Toddlers can learn about the meanings of individual words from the structure and semantics of the sentences in which they are embedded. However, it remains unknown whether toddlers encode similarities among novel words based on their positions within sentences. In three experiments, two-year-olds listened to novel words embedded in familiar sentence frames. Some novel words consistently occurred in the subject position across sentences, and others in the object position across sentences. An auditory semantic task was used to test whether toddlers encoded similarities based on sentential position, for (a) pairs of novel words that occurred within the same sentence, and (b) pairs of novel words that occurred in the same position across sentences. The results suggest that while toddlers readily encoded similarity based on within-sentence occurrences, only toddlers with more advanced grammatical knowledge encoded the positional similarities of novel words across sentences. Moreover, the encoding of these cross-sentential relationships only occurred if the exposure sentences included a familiar verb. These studies suggest that the types of lexical relationships that toddlers learn depend on the child’s current level of language development, as well as the structure and meaning of the sentences surrounding the novel words.

Published In

Cognition

Volume

138

Pages

10-20

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2015.01.015

Share

COinS
 
 

To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.