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date: 24 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews early vocabulary learning in Mandarin and Cantonese. One way in which Chinese languages differ from English, Italian, German, and other languages (including, perhaps, Japanese) is in the relative prevalence of nouns and verbs in children’s early vocabularies. The chapter shows that these differences are strongest for the words that children “can say” and for the very earliest stages of vocabulary learning. Differences are also present in the words that children comprehend and in controlled laboratory situations. However, even for two closely related Chinese languages such as Cantonese and Mandarin, the proportions of nouns and verbs, and even the growth of specific classifiers, also show language-specific patterns. Factors that influence these patterns are reviewed, with suggestions for future research to understand processes that more fully explain and account for word learning and differences in lexical organization across languages.

Keywords: Mandarin, Cantonese, lexical organization, word learning, children

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