Do Early Nouns Refer to Kinds or Distinct Shapes? Evidence From 10-Month-Old Infants

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What is the nature of early words? Specifically, do infants expect words for objects to refer to kinds or to distinct shapes? The current study investigated this question by testing whether 10-month-olds expect internal object properties to be predicted by linguistic labels. A looking-time method was employed. Infants were familiarized with pairs of identical or different objects that made identical or different sounds. During test, before the sounds were demonstrated, paired objects were labeled with one repeated count-noun label or two distinct labels. Results showed that infants expected objects labeled with distinct labels to make different sounds and objects labeled with repeated labels to make identical sounds, regardless of the objects' appearance. These findings indicate that the 10-month-olds' expectations about internal properties of objects were driven by labeling and provide evidence that even at the beginning of word learning, infants expect distinct labels to refer to different kinds.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of British Columbia

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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