Human categories are organized into different kinds, for example, living and nonliving things, animates and inanimates, objects and substances. These differences are evident in how people reason about different kinds and in their neural organization of categories. This research investigates the developmental origins of these distinctions. The studies test the hypothesis that the organization of categories into different kinds is the learned consequence of correlations among the perceptual properties of things, lexical category structure, and language. To test this hypothesis the research proposes 11 studies investigating the statistical regularities presented by the first 300 nouns that children learn. The regularities in category structure, their relation to perceptual cues, to events, and to the verbs with they co-occur will be studied in two languages -- English and Japanese. By comparing the structures presented by two languages we can tease apart the relevant contributions of language and perceptual correlations. We model the processes through which these regularities may organize categories into kinds with neural networks. From these neural network simulations, we derive predictions that are then tested in behavioral studies with children learning English and children learning Japanese as their only language. The children range in age from 18 months to 4 years old. This research contributes to our understanding of the role of language in cognitive development and in so doing has direct implications for child health in the areas of language delay, environmental retardation, and other areas in which language learning is in some way compromised. In addition, the research seeks a fine grained specification of the learning mechanisms involved which have general significance beyond the role of language in early cognitive development. ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-6 (03))
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Kurtzman, Howard S
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Indiana University Bloomington
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Mix, Kelly S; Prather, Richard W; Smith, Linda B et al. (2014) Young children's interpretation of multidigit number names: from emerging competence to mastery. Child Dev 85:1306-1319
Sethuraman, Nitya; Smith, Linda B (2013) Verbs and attention to relational roles in English and Tamil. J Child Lang 40:358-90
Yoshida, Hanako (2012) A Cross-Linguistic Study of Sound-Symbolism in Children's Verb Learning. J Cogn Dev 13:232-265
Kuwabara, Megumi; Smith, Linda B (2012) Cross-cultural differences in cognitive development: attention to relations and objects. J Exp Child Psychol 113:20-35
Ettlinger, Marc; Zapf, Jennifer (2011) The Role of Phonology in Children's Acquisition of the Plural. Lang Acquis 18:294-313
Kuwabara, Megumi; Son, Ji Y; Smith, Linda B (2011) Attention to context: U.S. and Japanese children's emotional judgments. J Cogn Dev 12:502-517
Sethuraman, Nitya; Laakso, Aarre; Smith, Linda B (2011) Verbs and syntactic frames in children's elicited actions: a comparison of Tamil- and English-speaking children. J Psycholinguist Res 40:241-52
Smith, Linda B; Colunga, Eliana; Yoshida, Hanako (2010) Knowledge as process: contextually-cued attention and early word learning. Cogn Sci 34:1287-314
Hidaka, Shohei; Smith, Linda B (2010) A single word in a population of words. Lang Learn Dev 6:206-222
Sethuraman, Nitya; Smith, Linda B (2010) Cross-linguistic Differences in Talking About Scenes. J Pragmat 42:2978-2991

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