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date: 25 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Children pay special attention to people's intentional cues when learning new words, but it is possible to learn and recognize words in the absence of such cues. Word learning constitutes a “special” problem precisely because words constitute complex collections of properties. A word is a symbol. It is a linguistic unit with syntactic, morphological, and phonological properties. A word is a social convention. It is a type of intentional action that refers to a meaningful concept. This article explores children's acquisition of the essential properties of words, focusing both on the challenge of acquisition and on the generative effects of acquisition for further learning. Recent work has begun to explore the earliest roots of word knowledge, and has revealed that even at the dawn of word learning, young children bring to bear their knowledge not only of speakers' intentions but also their knowledge of the conventional and contrastive nature of linguistic symbols, the link between names and conceptual categories, and the probabilistic correspondences between syntax and semantics.

Keywords: children, word learning, symbol, social convention, intentional action, syntax, semantics

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