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Volume 6 Issue 2 (April 2003), Pages 119-231

Children extend both words and non‐verbal actions to novel exemplars (pages 185-190)


Markson and Bloom (1997) found that some learning processes involved in children's acquisition of a new word are also involved in their acquisition of a new fact. They argued that these findings provided evidence against a domain‐specific system for word learning. However, Waxman and Booth (2000) found that whereas children quite readily extend newly learned words to novel exemplars within a category, they do not do this with newly learned facts. They therefore argued that because children did not extend some facts in a principled way, word learning and fact learning may result from different domain‐specific processes. In the current study, we argue that facts are a poor comparison in this argument since facts vary in whether they are tied to particular individuals. A more appropriate comparison is a conventional non‐verbal action on an object –‘what we do with things like this’– since they are routinely generalized categorically to new objects. Our study shows that 21/2‐year‐old children extend novel non‐verbal actions to new objects in the same way that they extend novel words to new objects. The findings provide support for the view that word learning represents a unique configuration of more general learning processes.

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