Children's level of word knowledge predicts their exclusion of familiar objects as referents of novel words

Frontiers in Psychology. 2015;6 DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01200


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Journal Title: Frontiers in Psychology

ISSN: 1664-1078 (Online)

Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.

LCC Subject Category: Philosophy. Psychology. Religion: Psychology

Country of publisher: Switzerland

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML, ePUB, XML



Susanne eGrassmann (University of Zurich)

Susanne eGrassmann (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

Cornelia eSchulze (University of Erfurt)

Cornelia eSchulze (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

Michael eTomasello (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)


Blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 14 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

When children are learning a novel object label, they tend to exclude as possible referents familiar objects for which they already have a name. In the current study, we wanted to know if children would behave in this same way regardless of how well they knew the name of potential referent objects, specifically, whether they could only comprehend it or they could both comprehend and produce it. Sixty-six monolingual German-speaking 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old children participated in two experimental sessions. In one session the familiar objects were chosen such that their labels were in the children's productive vocabularies, and in the other session the familiar objects were chosen such that their labels were only in the children's receptive vocabularies. Results indicated that children at all three ages were more likely to exclude a familiar object as the potential referent of the novel word if they could comprehend and produce its name rather than comprehend its name only. Indeed, level of word knowledge as operationalized in this way was a better predictor than was age. These results are discussed in the context of current theories of word learning by exclusion.