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The development of children's abilities to flexibly use mutual exclusivity in word learning

  • THE KOREAN JOURNAL OF DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY
  • 2017, 30(1), pp.103-115
  • Publisher : The Korean Society For Developmental Psychology
  • Research Area : Social Science > Psychological Science

Hyuna Lee 1 Eun Young Kim 2 Hyun Joo SONG 1

1연세대학교
2순천향대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Young children readily exploit the mutual exclusivity assumption that each object has one category label, when inferring the referent of a novel word. However, one should suspend this assumption when interpreting a word from a foreign language, which does not share the same knowledge of words with one’s native language. The present study investigated 2- to 3-year-olds’ ability to suspend the mutual exclusivity assumption toward a foreign word. In the native language test trials, a Korean-speaking experimenter presented the children with one familiar object and one novel object, and asked the child to pick a referent of a novel Korean word, “muppi”. In the foreign language trials, on the other hand, a Spanish-speaking experimenter presented the child with one familiar and one novel object, and asked the child to pick a referent of a novel Spanish word, “Pefo”. In the native language test trials, children chose the novel object more often than predicted by chance and there was no significant age difference. In the foreign language test trials, 2-year-olds again selected the novel object more often than predicted by chance, whereas 3-year-olds’ performance was not significantly different from chance. These results suggest that the ability to suspend mutual exclusivity in interpreting a foreign word develops between 2 and 3 years of age.

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