Skip to main content Accesibility Help
×
×
Home

Early object labels: the case for a developmental lexical principles framework[*]

  • Roberta Michnick Golinkoff (a1), Carolyn B. Mervis (a2) and Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek (a3)
Abstract

Universally, object names make up the largest proportion of any word type found in children's early lexicons. Here we present and critically evaluate a set of six lexical principles (some previously proposed and some new) for making object label learning a manageable task. Overall, the principles have the effect of reducing the amount of information that language-learning children must consider for what a new word might mean. These principles are constructed by children in a two-tiered developmental sequence, as a function of their sensitivity to linguistic input, contextual information, and social-interactional cues. Thus, the process of lexical acquisition changes as a result of the particular principles a given child has at his or her disposal. For children who have only the principles of the first tier (REFERENCE, EXTENDIBILITY, and OBJECT SCOPE), word learning has a deliberate and laborious look. The principles of the second tier (CATEGORICAL SCOPE, NOVEL NAME – NAMELESS CATEGORY’ or N3C, and CONVENTIONALITY) enable the child to acquire many new labels rapidly. The present unified account is argued to have a number of advantages over treating such principles separately and non-developmentally. Further, the explicit recognition that the acquisition and operation of these principles is influenced by the child's interpretation of both linguistic and non-linguistic input is seen as an advance.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Department of Educational Studies, College of Education, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, 19716, USA. Email: CXCo4599@UDELVM.BITNET.
Footnotes
Hide All
[*]

A version of this paper was presented at the Society for Research in Child Development meetings in 1993. The research described herein was supported by a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and a James McKeen Cattell Sabbatical Award to Golinkoff, and grant No. HD 19568 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development awarded to Golinkoff and Hirsh-Pasek. Mervis's participation also was supported by grants from that Institute (HD27042 and HD20892) and from the National Science Foundation (BNS84–19036). We wish to thank Jacquelyn Bertrand, Lois Bloom, Bill Frawley, Gaby Hermon and our long-standing MLU group for their helpful comments on various drafts of this manuscript.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Aslin, R. N. (1981). Experiential influences and sensitive periods in perceptual development: a unified model. In Aslin, R. N., Alberts, J. R. & Petersen, M. R., M. R. (eds), Development of perception. Vol. 2. New York: Academic Press.
Aslin, R. N. (1992). Segmentation of fluent speech into words: learning models and the role of maternal input. In de Boysson-Bardies, B., de Schonen, S., Jusczyk, P., MacNeilage, P. & Morton, J. (eds), Developmental neurocognition: speech and face processing in the first year of life. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Au, T. K. (1985). Children's word-learning strategies. Papers and Reports on Child Language Development 24, 22–9.
Baldwin, D. A. (1989). Priorities in children's expectations about object label reference: form over color. Child Development 60, 1291–306.
Baldwin, D. A. (1993). Infants' ability to consult the speaker for clues to word reference. Journal of Child Language 20, 377–94.
Baldwin, D. A. & Markman, E. M. (1989). Establishing word-object relations: a first step. Child Development 60, 381–9.
Banigan, R. L. & Mervis, C. B. (1988). Role of adult input in young children's category evolution: II an experimental study. Journal of Child Language 15, 493504.
Barrett, M. D. (1978). Lexical development and overextension in child language. Journal of Child Language 5, 205–19.
Barrett, M. D. (1982). Distinguishing between prototypes: the early acquisition of the meanings of object names. In Kuczaj, S. A. (ed.), Language development. Vol. I. Syntax and semantics. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Bates, E., Camaioni, L. & Volterra, V. (1975). The acquisition of performatives prior to speech. Merrill Palmer Quarterly 21, 205–26.
Bauer, P. J. & Mandler, J. M. (1989). Taxonomies and triads: conceptual organization in one- to two-year-olds. Cognitive Psychology 21, 156–84.
Behrend, D. A. (1990). Constraints and development: a reply to Nelson (1988). Cognitive Development 5, 313–30.
Blewitt, P. (1983). Dog versus collie: vocabulary in speech to young children. Developmental Psychology 19, 602–9.
Bloom, L. (1973). One word at a time: the use of single word utterances before syntax. The Hague: Mouton.
Bloom, L. (1974). Talking, understanding and thinking: developmental relationship between receptive and expressive language. In Schiefelbusch, R. L. & Lloyd, L. (eds), Language perspectives – acquisition, retardation and intervention. Baltimore: University Park Press.
Bloom, L. & Capatides, J. B. (1987). Expression of affect and the emergence of language. Child Development 58, 1513–21.
Bloom, L. & Lahey, M. (1978). Language development and language disorders. New York: John Wiley.
Bloom, L., Tinker, E. & Margulis, C. (1993). The words children learn. Cognitive Development (in press).
Brown, R. (1958). Words and things. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
Carey, S. (1982). Semantic development: the state of the art. In Wanner, E. & Gleitman, L. R. (eds), Language acquisition: the state of the art. Cambridge: C.U.P.
Carey, S. & Gelman, R. (1990). Description of their forthcoming edited book, Biology and knowledge: structural constraints on development. The Genetic Epistemologist, Fall issue, p. 7.
Chomsky, N. (1981). Lectures on government and binding. Foris: Dordrecht.
Clark, E. V. (1983). Meanings and concepts. In Flavell, J. H. & Markman, E. M. (eds), Handbook of child psychology. Vol. III. Cognitive development. New York: John Wiley.
Clark, E. V. (1990). On the pragmatics of contrast. Journal of Child Language 17, 417–31.
Dockrell, J. & Campbell, R. (1986). Lexical acquisition strategies in the preschool child. In Kuczaj, S. & Barrett, M. (eds), The development of word meaning. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
Dore, J., Franklin, M., Miller, R. & Ramer, A. (1975). Transitional phenomena in early language acquisition. Journal of Child Language 3, 1328.
Dromi, E. (1987). Early lexical development. Cambridge: C.U.P.
Echols, C. H. (1992). Developmental changes in attention to labeled events during the transition to language. Paper presented at the International Conference for Infant Studies, Miami Beach, FL.
Fernald, A. & Morikawa, H. (1993). Common themes and cultural variations in Japanese and American mothers' speech to infants. Child Development 64, 637–56.
Franco, F. & Butterworth, G. (1991). Infant pointing: prelinguistic references and co-reference. Paper presented at meeting of Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA.
Gathercole, V. C. (1989). Contrast: a semantic constraint. Journal of Child Language 16, 685702.
Gauker, C. (1990). How to learn a language like a chimpanzee. Philosophical Psychology 3, 3153.
Gelman, R. (1990). Structural constraints on cognitive development. Cognitive Science 14, 310.
Gelman, S. & Markman, E. (1986). Categories and induction in young children. Cognition 23, 183209.
Gentner, D. (1983). Why nouns are learned before verbs: linguistic relativity versus natural partitioning. In Kuczaj, S. (ed), Language development. Vol. 2. Language, cognition, and culture. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Glass, A. L., Holyoak, K. J. & Santa, J. L. (1979). Cognition. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Gleitman, L. (1990). Structural sources of verb meaning. Language Acquisition 1, 355.
Goldfield, B. A. (1993). Noun bias in maternal speech to one-year-olds. Journal of Child Language 20, 8599.
Goldin-Meadow, S. & Mylander, C. (1984). Gestural communication in deaf children: the effects and non-effects of parental input on early language development. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 49 (3–4, Serial No. 207).
Golinkoff, R. M. (1986). ‘I beg your pardon?’: the preverbal negotiation of failed messages. Journal of Child Language 13, 455–76.
Golinkoff, R. M. (1993). When is communication a ‘meeting of minds’? Journal of Child Language 20, 199207.
Golinkoff, R. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Bailey, L. M. & Wenger, R. N. (1992). Young children and adults use lexical principles to learn new nouns. Developmental Psychology 28, 99108.
Golinkoff, R. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Mervis, C. B., Frawley, W. & Parillo, M. (in press). Lexical principles can be extended to the acquisition of verbs. In Tomasello, M. & Merriman, W. (eds), Beyond names for things: young children's acquisition of verbs. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Golinkoff, R. M., Kenealy, L. & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (1993). Object scope: labels promote attention to whole objects. Unpublished manuscript, University of Delaware.
Golinkoff, R. M., Shuff-Bailey, M., Olguin, K. & Ruan, W. (1993). Young children extend novel words at the basic level: evidence for the principle of categorical scope. Unpublished manuscript, University of Delaware.
Gopnik, A. & Meltzoff, A. (1987). The development of categorization in the second year and its relation to other cognitive and linguistic developments. Child Development 58, 1523–31.
Guillaume, P. (1927). Les débuts de la phrase dans le language de l'enfant. Journal de Psychologie 24, 115.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1975). Learning how to mean: explorations in the development of language. London: Edward Arnold.
Hall, D. G. & Waxman, S. R. (in press). Assumptions about word meaning: individuation and basic-level kinds. Child Development.
Hall, D. G., Waxman, S. R. & Hurwitz, W. M. (in press). How two- and four-year-old children interpret adjectives and count nouns. Child Development.
Harris, M. B., Barrett, M., Jones, D. & Brookes, S. (1988). Linguistic input and early word mappings. Journal of Child Language 15, 7794.
Heibeck, T. & Markman, E. M. (1987). Word learning in children: an examination of fast mapping. Child Development 58, 1021–34.
Huttenlocher, J. & Smiley, P. (1987). Early word meanings: the case of object names. Cognitive Psychology 19, 6389.
Keil, , Frank, C. (1989). Concepts, kinds, and cognitive development. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Kuczaj, S. A. (1990). Constraining constraint theories. Cognitive Development 5, 341–4.
Lakoff, G. (1987). Women, fire, and dangerous things. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lieberman, P. (1991). Uniquely human. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Lock, A. (1978). (ed.) Action, gesture and symbol: the emergence of language. New York: Academic Press.
Lyons, J. (1977). Semantics. Vol. I. Cambridge: C.U.P.
Macnamara, J. (1982). Names for things. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Maratsos, M. (1991). How the acquisition of nouns may be different from that of verbs. In Krasnegor, A., Rumbaugh, D. M., Schiefelbusch, R. L. & Studdert-Kennedy, M. (eds), Biological and behavioral determinants of language development. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Markman, E. M. (1989). Categorization and naming in children. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Markman, E. M. & Hutchinson, J. E. (1984). Children's sensitivity to constraints on word meaning: taxonomic vs. thematic relations. Cognitive Psychology 16, 127.
Markman, E. M. & Wachtel, G. F. (1988). Children's use of mutual exclusivity to constrain the meaning of words. Cognitive Psychology 20, 121–57.
Merriman, W. E. & Bowman, L. (1989). The mutual exclusivity bias in children's word learning. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 54 (Serial No. 220).
Mervis, C. B. (1983). Acquisition of a lexicon. Contemporary Educational Psychology 8, 210–36.
Mervis, C. B. (1987). Child-basic object categories and early lexical development. In Neisser, U. (ed.), Concepts and conceptual development: ecological and intellectual factors in categorisation. Cambridge: C.U.P.
Mervis, C. B. (1990). Operating principles, input, and early lexical development. Communicazioni Scientifiche di Psicologia Generala 4, 3148.
Mervis, C. B. & Bertrand, J. (in press). Acquisition of the novel name – nameless category (N3C) principle. Child Development.
Mervis, C. B. & Bertrand, J. (1993). Acquisition of early object labels: the roles of operating principles and input. In Kaiser, A. P. & Gray, D. B. (eds), Enhancing children's communication: research foundations for interventions. Vol. II. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.
Mervis, C. B. & Crisafi, M. A. (1982). Order of acquisition of subordinate, basic and superordinate level categories. Child Development 53, 258–66.
Mervis, C. B., Golinkoff, R. M. & Bertrand, J. (1994). Two-year-olds readily learn multiple labels for the same basic level category. Child Development (in press).
Mervis, C. B. & Long, L. M. (1987). Words refer to whole objects: young children's interpretation of the referent of a novel word. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Baltimore, MD.
Mervis, C. B., Mervis, C. A., Johnson, K. E. & Bertrand, J. (1992). Studying early lexical development: the value of the systematic diary method. In Rovee-Collier, C. (ed.), Advances in infancy research. Vol. 7. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Mervis, C. B. & Ramos, E. (1990). Non-mutual exclusivity in early comprehension vocabularies of bilingual children. Unpublished manuscript, Emory University.
Nelson, K. (1988). Constraints on word learning? Cognitive Development 3, 221–46.
Nelson, K., Hampson, J. & Shaw, L. (1993). Nouns in early lexicons: evidence, explanations and implications. Journal of Child Language 20, 6184.
Ninio, A. (1980). Ostensive definition in vocabulary teaching. Journal of Child Language 7, 565–73.
Pinker, S. (1984). Language learnability and language development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Quine, W. V. O. (1960). Word and object. Cambridge: C.U.P.
Roberts, K. & Cuff, M. (1989). Categorization studies of 9- to 15-month-old infants: evidence for superordinate categorization? Infant Behavior and Development 12, 265–88.
Roberts, K. & Jacobs, M. (1992). Linguistic versus attentional influences on nonlinguistic categorization in 15-month-old infants. Cognitive Development 6, 355–75.
Rosch, E., Mervis, C. B., Gray, W. D., Johnson, D. M. & Boyes-Braem, P. (1976). Basic objects in natural categories. Cognitive Psychology 8, 382439.
Scaife, M. & Bruner, J. S. (1975). The capacity for joint visual attention in the infant. Nature 253, 265–6.
Slobin, D. I. (1985). Cross-linguistic evidence for the language making capacity. In Slobin, D. I. (ed.), The cross-linguistic study of language acquisition. Vol. 2. Theoretical issues. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Smith, L. B., Jones, S. S. & Landau, B. (1992). Count nouns, adjectives, and perceptual properties in children's novel word interpretations. Developmental Psychology 28, 273–86.
Soja, N., Carey, S. & Spelke, E. (1991). Ontological categories guide young children's inductions of word meaning: object terms and substance terms. Cognition 38, 179211.
Spelke, E. S. (1990). Principles of object perception. Cognitive Science 14, 2956.
Taylor, M. & Gelman, S. A. (1988). Adjectives and nouns: children's strategies for learning new words. Child Development 59, 411–19.
Terrace, H. S. (1985). In the beginning was the ‘name’. American Psychologist 40, 1011–28.
Tomikawa, S. A. & Dodd, D. H. (1980). Early word meanings: perceptually or functionally based? Child Development 51, 1103–9.
Waxman, S. R. (1989). Linking language and conceptual development: linguistic cues and the construction of conceptual hierarchies. The Genetic Epistemologist 17, 1320.
Waxman, S. R. & Balaban, M. T. (1992). The influence of words vs. tones on 9-month-old infants' object categorization. Paper presented at International Conference for Infant Studies, Miami Beach, FL.
Waxman, S. R. & Gelman, R. (1986). Preschoolers' use of superordinate relations in classification. Cognitive Development 1, 139–56.
Waxman, S. R. & Kosowski, T. D. (1990). Nouns mark category relations: toddlers' and preschoolers' word-learning biases. Child Development 61, 1461–90.
Waxman, S. R. & Senghas, A. (1992). Relations among word meanings in early lexical development. Developmental Psychology 28, 862–73.
Wellman, H. M. (1990). The child's theory of mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Younger, B. A. & Cohen, L. B. (1986). Developmental change in infants' perception of correlations among attributes. Child Development 57, 803–15.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed