The ontogeny of lexical networks: toddlers encode the relationships among referents when learning novel words.

TitleThe ontogeny of lexical networks: toddlers encode the relationships among referents when learning novel words.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsWojcik EH, Saffran JR
JournalPsychol Sci
Volume24
Issue10
Pagination1898-905
Date Published2013 Oct
ISSN1467-9280
KeywordsChild Language, Child, Preschool, Concept Formation, Female, Humans, Learning, Male, Photic Stimulation, Recognition (Psychology), Semantics
Abstract

Although the semantic relationships among words have long been acknowledged as a crucial component of adult lexical knowledge, the ontogeny of lexical networks remains largely unstudied. To determine whether learners encode relationships among novel words, we trained 2-year-olds on four novel words that referred to four novel objects, which were grouped into two visually similar pairs. Participants then listened to repetitions of word pairs (in the absence of visual referents) that referred to objects that were either similar or dissimilar to each other. Toddlers listened significantly longer to word pairs referring to similar objects, which suggests that their representations of the novel words included knowledge about the similarity of the referents. A second experiment confirmed that toddlers can learn all four distinct words from the training regime, which suggests that the results from Experiment 1 reflected the successful encoding of referents. Together, these results show that toddlers encode the similarities among referents from their earliest exposures to new words.

DOI10.1177/0956797613478198
Alternate JournalPsychol Sci
PubMed ID23938274
PubMed Central IDPMC3865601
Grant ListP30 HD003352 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R37 HD037466 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
P30HD03352 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R37HD037466 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States