Children Extend Both Words and Non-Verbal Actions to Novel Exemplars

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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 2 1/2-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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Developmental Science