LINKING EARLY LINGUISTIC AND CONCEPTUAL DEVELOPMENT

Summary

Principal Investigator: S R Waxman
Affiliation: Northwestern University
Country: USA
Abstract: This proposal addresses fundamental issues of early conceptual development, language development, and the relation between them. Infants live in an enormously rich environment. Each day, they encounter new objects and witness new events. This richness would be overwhelming if each object or event was treated as unique. Therefore, an essential developmental task is to form concepts to capture commonalities among their experiences and to learn words to express these. Recent research reveals powerful and implicit links between conceptual and linguistic organization, across development and across languages. Infants begin the task of word-learning with a broad initial expectation linking novel words to a broad range of commonalities. More specific expectations, linking particular kinds of words (e.g., noun, adjective, verb) to particular kinds of relations (e.g., category-, property-, and motion-based commonalities) emerge several months later, and are shaped by the structure of the native language. The current proposal deepens the insights gained in the previous period and brings us closer to understanding the origin, evolution, and universality of these links between conceptual and linguistic organization. The studies in Section I trace the origin and evolution of infants' expectations at several strategic developmental points. The section includes new methods to identify the mechanisms underlying infants' ability to distinguish among different kinds of words (nouns, adjectives, verbs) and map them appropriately to their associated meaning. The studies in Section II sharpen the evidence for these links in infants and children acquiring languages other than English (French; Mandarin). By combining developmental and cross-linguistic approaches, the proposed project 1) broadens the empirical and theoretical foundations of existing research, 2) provides a window through which to view more clearly the origins and evolution of links between conceptual and linguistic development, and 3) underscores the vital interaction between the expectations inherent in the child and the shaping role of the environment. The results should have implications for theories of acquisition and may serve as a springboard for research on bilingualism and specific language impairments in young children.
Funding Period: 1992-09-01 - 2009-01-31
more information: NIH RePORT

Top Publications

  1. ncbi "Shall we blick?" Novel words highlight actors' underlying intentions for 14-month-old infants
    Marian L Chen
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University
    Dev Psychol 49:426-31. 2013
  2. pmc What paradox? Referential cues allow for infant use of phonetic detail in word learning
    Christopher T Fennell
    School of Psychology and Department of Linguistics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
    Child Dev 81:1376-83. 2010
  3. pmc Categorization in 3- and 4-month-old infants: an advantage of words over tones
    Alissa L Ferry
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
    Child Dev 81:472-9. 2010
  4. pmc Meaning from syntax: evidence from 2-year-olds
    Sudha Arunachalam
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
    Cognition 114:442-6. 2010
  5. pmc What's in the input? Frequent frames in child-directed speech offer distributional cues to grammatical categories in Spanish and English
    Adriana Weisleder
    Stanford University, USA
    J Child Lang 37:1089-108. 2010
  6. pmc A horse of a different color: specifying with precision infants' mappings of novel nouns and adjectives
    Amy E Booth
    Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208 3540, USA
    Child Dev 80:15-22. 2009
  7. pmc Early word-learning entails reference, not merely associations
    Sandra R Waxman
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Rd, Evanston, IL 60208 2710, USA
    Trends Cogn Sci 13:258-63. 2009
  8. pmc Twenty four-month-old infants' interpretations of novel verbs and nouns in dynamic scenes
    Sandra R Waxman
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
    Cogn Psychol 59:67-95. 2009
  9. pmc Tight and loose are not created equal: an asymmetry underlying the representation of fit in English- and Korean-speakers
    Heather M Norbury
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
    Cognition 109:316-25. 2008
  10. ncbi Looking beyond looks: comments on Sloutsky, Kloos, and Fisher (2007)
    Susan A Gelman
    University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109 1043, USA
    Psychol Sci 18:554-5; discussion 556-7. 2007

Detail Information

Publications16

  1. ncbi "Shall we blick?" Novel words highlight actors' underlying intentions for 14-month-old infants
    Marian L Chen
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University
    Dev Psychol 49:426-31. 2013
    ..Thus, by 14 months, infants gain insight into the intentions of others by considering not only what we do but also what we say...
  2. pmc What paradox? Referential cues allow for infant use of phonetic detail in word learning
    Christopher T Fennell
    School of Psychology and Department of Linguistics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
    Child Dev 81:1376-83. 2010
    ....
  3. pmc Categorization in 3- and 4-month-old infants: an advantage of words over tones
    Alissa L Ferry
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
    Child Dev 81:472-9. 2010
    ....
  4. pmc Meaning from syntax: evidence from 2-year-olds
    Sudha Arunachalam
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
    Cognition 114:442-6. 2010
    ..These results demonstrate that 2-year-olds infer important components of meaning from syntactic structure alone, using it to direct their subsequent search for a referent in a visual scene...
  5. pmc What's in the input? Frequent frames in child-directed speech offer distributional cues to grammatical categories in Spanish and English
    Adriana Weisleder
    Stanford University, USA
    J Child Lang 37:1089-108. 2010
    ..In each language, frequent frames did indeed offer systematic cues to grammatical category assignment. We also identify differences in the accuracy of these frames across languages, sentences positions and grammatical classes...
  6. pmc A horse of a different color: specifying with precision infants' mappings of novel nouns and adjectives
    Amy E Booth
    Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208 3540, USA
    Child Dev 80:15-22. 2009
    ....
  7. pmc Early word-learning entails reference, not merely associations
    Sandra R Waxman
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Rd, Evanston, IL 60208 2710, USA
    Trends Cogn Sci 13:258-63. 2009
    ....
  8. pmc Twenty four-month-old infants' interpretations of novel verbs and nouns in dynamic scenes
    Sandra R Waxman
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
    Cogn Psychol 59:67-95. 2009
    ..These results beckon us to move beyond asking whether or not infants can represent verb meanings, and to consider instead the conditions that support successful verb learning in infants and young children...
  9. pmc Tight and loose are not created equal: an asymmetry underlying the representation of fit in English- and Korean-speakers
    Heather M Norbury
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
    Cognition 109:316-25. 2008
    ....
  10. ncbi Looking beyond looks: comments on Sloutsky, Kloos, and Fisher (2007)
    Susan A Gelman
    University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109 1043, USA
    Psychol Sci 18:554-5; discussion 556-7. 2007
  11. pmc Words (but not tones) facilitate object categorization: evidence from 6- and 12-month-olds
    Anne L Fulkerson
    Strategy and Institutional Research, The University of Toledo, USA
    Cognition 105:218-28. 2007
    ..These results support the view that infants are sensitive to powerful and increasingly nuanced links between linguistic and conceptual units very early in the process of lexical acquisition...
  12. pdf Consistent (but not variable) names as invitations to form object categories: new evidence from 12-month-old infants
    Sandra R Waxman
    Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 2710, USA
    Cognition 95:B59-68. 2005
    ..These results lend strength and greater precision to the argument that naming has powerful and rather nuanced conceptual consequences for infants as well as for mature speakers...