Certain children in certain situations behave as if they have a bias to keep word references mutually exclusive, i.e., a bias to interpret a new word so that it has no referents in common with familiar words. The word learning of children who have a mutual exclusivity bias should be subject to three general constraints-a constraint on the interpretation of an ambiguous new word; a constraint on the reaction to the use of a new word for an old referent; and a constraint on the generalization of words. The proposed research will address seven basic questions about the nature of each of these constraints. These questions are: (1) How is children's word learning aided by these constrains? (2) How are errors that should result from these constrains avoided? (3) What are the cognitive prerequisites of the constraints? (4) How do the constraints change with development? (5) What causes the developmental change? (6) What are the temporal dynamics of the constraints? (7) How do the constraints vary with respect to word type? Ten studies will be conducted. Each study will address at least one of the basic questions about at least one of the constraints. Study 1 will provide information about questions (3) and (4) by comparing adherence to the constraint on word generalization with appearance-reality confusions in 3- and 5-year-olds. Studies 2 and 3 will provide information about all questions except (6) by examining the effects of token novelty, referent typicality, and word distinctiveness on the adherence of 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds to the disambiguation constraint for nouns and verbs. Study 4 will provide information about questions (6) and (7) by examining the effect of repeated exposure to new nouns and verbs on the adherence of 2- and 4-year-olds to the constraint on reactions to the use of a new word for an old referent. Studies 5 and 6 will provide information about all questions except (6) by examining the effects of speaker constancy and credibility on the adherence of 2-, 6-, 22-, and 19-year-olds to two of the constraints on nouns and adjectives. Studies 7 and 8 will provide information about all questions by examining the effects of correction requirement, timing of new name introduction, and memory cues on the adherence of 2- and 4-year-olds to two of the constraints on nouns and adjectives. Studies 9 and 10 will provide information about all questions except (6) by examining the ease with which 3-, 6-, 11- , and 19-year-olds learn and remember pairs of new words that have either mutually exclusive, nested, or overlapping reference.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Type
First Independent Research Support & Transition (FIRST) Awards (R29)
Project #
5R29HD025958-03
Application #
3470131
Study Section
Human Development and Aging Subcommittee 3 (HUD)
Project Start
1989-07-01
Project End
1994-06-30
Budget Start
1991-07-01
Budget End
1992-06-30
Support Year
3
Fiscal Year
1991
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Name
Kent State University at Kent
Department
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
City
Kent
State
OH
Country
United States
Zip Code
44242
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Merriman, W E; Stevenson, C M (1997) Restricting a familiar name in response to learning a new one: evidence for the mutual exclusivity bias in young two-year-olds. Child Dev 68:211-28
Merriman, W E; Evey-Burkey, J A; Marazita, J M et al. (1996) Young two-year-olds' tendency to map novel verbs onto novel actions. J Exp Child Psychol 63:466-98
Merriman, W E; Marazita, J M; Jarvis, L H et al. (1995) What can be learned from something's not being named. Child Dev 66:1890-908
Merriman, W E; Jarvis, L H; Marazita, J M (1995) How shall a deceptive thing be called? J Child Lang 22:129-49
Merriman, W E; Marazita, J; Jarvis, L H (1993) Four-year-olds' disambiguation of action and object word reference. J Exp Child Psychol 56:412-30
Merriman, W E; Scott, P D; Marazita, J (1993) An appearance-function shift in children's object naming. J Child Lang 20:101-18
Merriman, W E; Schuster, J M; Hager, L (1991) Are names ever mapped onto preexisting categories? J Exp Psychol Gen 120:288-300
Merriman, W E; Schuster, J M (1991) Young children's disambiguation of object name reference. Child Dev 62:1288-301
Merriman, W E; Bowman, L L (1989) The mutual exclusivity bias in children's word learning. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev 54:1-132