The Acquisition of the Lexicon


Between the ages of eighteen months and six years, children acquire about eight words each day without specific instruction or correction, simply through the course of natural conversational interactions. This book brings together investigations from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds (with an emphasis on linguistics, psycholinguistics, and computer science) to examine how young children acquire the vocabulary of their native tongue with such rapidity, and with virtually no errors along the way. The chapters discuss a number of issues relating to the child's mental representation of objects and events on the one hand, and of the linguistic input on the other; and the learning procedures that can accept such data to build, store, and manipulate the vocabulary of 100,000 words or so that constitute the adult state. Taken together, these essays provide a state-of-the art analysis of one of the most remarkable cognitive achievements of the human infant.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface

    Lila Gleitman and Barbara Landau

  2. 1. Nature of the mental lexicon
  3. Remarks on lexical knowledge

    Edwin Williams

  4. A preliminary analysis of causative verbs in English

    Beth Levin and Malka Rappaport Hovav

  5. 2. Discovering the word units
  6. Segmentation problems, rhythmic solutions

    Anne Cutler

  7. Domain-general abilities applied to domain-specific tasks: Sensitivity to probabilities in perception, cognition, and language

    Michael H. Kelly and Susanne Martin

  8. 3. Categorizing the world
  9. Does learning a language require the child to reconceptualize the world?

    Susan Carey

  10. Explanation, association, and the acquisition of word meaning

    Frank C. Keil

  11. 4. Categories, words, and languages
  12. Constraints on word meaning in early language acquisition

    Ellen M. Markman

  13. The development of an appreciation of specific linkages between linguistic and conceptual organization

    Sandra R. Waxman

  14. Where's what and what's where: The language of objects in space

    Barbara Landau

  15. Possible names: The role of syntax-semantics mappings in the acquisition of nominals

    Paul Bloom

  16. 5. The case of verbs
  17. When it is better to receive than to give: Syntactic and conceptual constraints on vocabulary growth

    Cynthia Fisher, D. Geoffrey Hall, Suan Rakowitz and Lila Gleitman

  18. How could a child use verb syntax to learn verb semantics?

    Steven Pinker

  19. Lexical reconciliation

    Jane Grimshaw

  20. 6. Procedures for verb learning
  21. Surface cues and robust inference as a basis for the early acquisition of subcategorization frames

    M. R. Brent

  22. Acquisition of verb categories

    Mark Steedman

  23. Index