Constraints Children Place on Word Meanings
Version of Record online: 11 FEB 2010
© 1990 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Volume 14, Issue 1, pages 57–77, January 1990
How to Cite
Markman, E. M. (1990), Constraints Children Place on Word Meanings. Cognitive Science, 14: 57–77. doi: 10.1207/s15516709cog1401_4
- Issue online: 11 FEB 2010
- Version of Record online: 11 FEB 2010
This paper views lexical acquisition as a problem of induction: Children must figure out the meaning of a given term, given the large number of possible meanings any term could have. If children had to consider, evaluate, and rule out an unlimited number of hypotheses about each word in order to figure out its meaning, learning word meanings would be hopeless. Children must, therefore, be limited in the kinds of hypotheses they consider as possible word meanings. This paper considers three possible constraints on word meanings: (1) The whole object assumption which leads children to interpret novel terms as labels for objects—not parts, substances, or other properties of objects: (2) The taxonomic assumption which leads children to consider labels as referring to objects of like kind, rather than to objects that are thematically related: and (3) The mutual exclusivity assumption which leads children to expect each object to have only one label. Some of the evidence for these constraints is reviewed.