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Perceptual properties, conceptual domain, and the acquisition of words for solids and nonsolids Lavin, Tracy A.

Abstract

In 2 experiments, we taught 120 3-year-olds and 120 adults novel words for unfamiliar solid objects or perceptually similar nonsolid substances described as belonging either to the toy domain or the food domain. In a forced-choice task, participants extended the novel words to one of two test items: a same-shape test item (i.e., one that shared a common shape with the standard but differed in colour, texture, or smell) or a same-substance test item (i.e., one that shared a common colour, texture, and smell with the standard but differed in shape). Participants made more same-shape choices in the solid than in the nonsolid conditions. This tendency varied depending on whether the same-shape item differed from the standard in colour, texture, or smell. Participants also made more same-shape choices for items described as toys than for the same items described as food. This tendency was consistent regardless of whether the same-shape item differed from the standard in colour, texture, or smell. The findings confirm previous reports that children's word extensions are affected by the solidity of the referent. They also reveal that these extensions are guided by information about the referent's conceptual domain. Finally, these results provide the first evidence that these extensions are influenced by the smell, texture, and colour of the referent.

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