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Conceptual perspective and lexical choice in acquisition

Authors
Journal
Cognition
0010-0277
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
64
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/s0010-0277(97)00010-3
Keywords
  • Conceptual Perspective
  • Pragmatics
  • Lexical Acquisition
  • Pragmatic Directions

Abstract

Abstract Adult speakers choose among perspectives when they talk, with different words picking out different perspectives (e.g., the dog, our pet, that animal). The many-perspectives account of lexical acquisition proposes that children learn to take alternative perspectives along with the words they acquire, and, therefore, from the first, readily apply multiple terms to the same objects or events. And adults offer children pragmatic directions about the meanings of new words and hence about new perspectives. In contrast, the one-perspective account proposes that children are able, at first, to use only one term to talk about an object or event. Evidence for the many-perspectives account comes from a range of sources: children spontaneously use more than one term for the same object ( horse and chair for a toy horse); they construct novel words to mark alternate perspectives ( Dalmatian-dog vs. dog); they shift perspective when asked (from cat to animal, or sailor to bear for anthropomorphic characters); and they readily learn new terms for talking about already-labelled kinds. Children sometimes fail to learn new words or fail to relate them to words already known, but only in situations that lack adequate pragmatic directions.

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