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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Chaining and the formation of spatial semantic categories in childhood


Children face the problem of extending a limited spatial lexicon to potentially infinite spatial situations. Previous work has examined how spatial semantic categories may be formed in child development, but it is unclear how children extend these categories to novel situations over the developmental time course. Drawing on cognitive linguistic theories of category extension, we present a framework that models the incremental extension of spatial relational words to novel situations through time. We describe a longitudinal dataset and computational analyses for investigating the extension of spatial word meanings in a developmental setting. Our preliminary results suggest that the formation of spatial categories takes place through an exemplar-based process of chaining, similar to the process underlying the growth of linguistic categories in history. Our work offers opportunities to explore the connection between ontogeny and phylogeny in the process of word meaning extension.

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