How do children learn that the word "dog" refers not to all
four-legged animals, and not just to Ralph, but to all members of a
particular species? How do they learn the meanings of verbs like
"think," adjectives like "good," and words for abstract entities such
as "mortgage" and "story"? The acquisition of word meaning is one of
the fundamental issues in the study of mind.
According to Paul Bloom, children learn words through sophisticated
cognitive abilities that exist for other purposes. These include the
ability to infer others' intentions, the ability to acquire concepts,
an appreciation of syntactic structure, and certain general learning
and memory abilities. Although other researchers have associated word
learning with some of these capacities, Bloom is the first to show how
a complete explanation requires all of them. The acquisition of even
simple nouns requires rich conceptual, social, and linguistic
capacities interacting in complex ways.
This book requires no background in psychology or linguistics and is
written in a clear, engaging style. Topics include the effects of
language on spatial reasoning, the origin of essentialist beliefs, and
the young child's understanding of representational art. The book
should appeal to general readers interested in language and cognition
as well as to researchers in the field.