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Language input and semantic categories: a relation between cognition and early word learning

  • Author(s): Borovsky, Arielle
  • Elman, Jeff
  • et al.
Abstract

Variations in the amount and nature of early language to which children are exposed have been linked to their subsequent ability (e.g. Huttenlocher, Haight, Bryk, Seltzer & Lyons, iggi; Hart & Risley, 1995). In three computational simulations, we explore how differences in linguistic experience can explain differences in word learning ability due to changes in the development of semantic category structure. More specifically, we manipulate the amount of language input, sentential complexity, and the frequency distribution of words within categories. In each of these simulations, improvements in category structure, are tightly correlated with subsequent improvements in word learning ability even when the nature of the input remains the same over time. These simulations suggest that variation in early language environments may result in differences in lexical proficiency by altering underlying cognitive abilities like categorization.

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