Project Details


The goal of the proposed research is to investigate the link between language learning, on the one hand, and the ability to categorize and individuate objects on the other. For adults, conceptual representations of object kinds are lexicalized as count nouns. These representations provide criteria for individuation and for categorization. Some have proposed that children are aided in the process of lexical acquisition by linguistic constraints that limit the possible meanings they consider when they hear a novel label. In particular, it has been suggested that when children hear a label applied to an object, they assume it refers to that object and others of the same kind. Alternatively, labels may facilitate categorization and individuation by simply increase infants' attention to all perceptual object features, and children learn specific relations between count nouns and objects kinds slowly as they acquire more extensive experience with language. The first series of proposed experiments examines whether labeling facilitates infants' ability to categorize objects at a time when children have little or no understanding of word meanings. The second series of experiments employs a newly developed method to investigate the role of labeling in infants' ability to individuate objects and trace their ability over time. Further, both series address the issue of whether labeling is specifically linked to object kind concepts early in lexical acquisition or whether it mediates attention to a range of perceptual properties. These experiments will shed light on the early development of the processes that underlie the acquisition both of language and conceptual knowledge.
Effective start/end date9/1/998/31/01


  • National Institute of Mental Health


  • Language and Linguistics


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