Infants’ Use of Lexical-Category-to-Meaning Links in Object Individuation


  • This work was funded by an operating grant to D. Geoffrey Hall from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Portions of the research were presented at the Boston University Conference on Language Development, November 2006. We thank Cristy McNiven for her help with data collection.

concerning this article should be addressed to D. Geoffrey Hall, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z4. Electronic mail may be sent to


Infants watched an experimenter retrieve a stuffed animal from an opaque box and then return it. This happened twice, consistent with either 1 animal appearing on 2 occasions or 2 identical-looking animals each appearing once. The experimenter labeled each object appearance with a different novel label. After infants retrieved 1 object from the box, their subsequent search behavior was recorded. Twenty-month-olds, but not 16-month-olds, searched significantly longer for a second object inside the box when the labels were both proper names than when they were 1 count noun followed by 1 proper name. The effect was not significant when proper names were replaced by adjectives. Twenty-month-olds’ understanding of meaning distinctions among several word categories guided their object individuation.