Constraints on Word Meaning

A number of researchers have argued that what makes word learning possible, especially when the child is capable of fast mapping, is a set of constraints that guides the child's hypotheses about the possible meanings of words. Eve Clark proposed a very general kind of constraint, called the principle of contrast, which states that every two words in a language contrast in meaning. This principle operates in conjunction with the principle of conventionality, which states that there are conventional words that children expect to be used to express particular meanings so that if a speaker does not use the conventional word, then the child assumes that the new word must have a somewhat different meaning. A different version of the principle of contrast is called the mutual exclusivity constraint. This constraint leads the child to assume that each object only has a single name, and that a name can only refer to one category of objects. When children hear a new word, they will look around for a referent for which they do not currently have a label. This explains why young children are reluctant to accept superordinate labels for individual objects. Other constraints that have been proposed include the whole-object constraint, which states that new words refer to whole objects rather than parts of objects (if, however, the child already knows the name of the object, then the word might be considered as labeling a part or property of the object), and the taxonomic constraint, which states that words refer to categories of objects.

Although some view these kinds of constraints as innate principles that are specific to lexical development, others view them as more general biases that may be an aspect of broader pragmatic or cognitive processes. Although there are still disagreements about how to characterize constraints on the child's hypotheses about the meanings of new words they encounter, most researchers agree that children use these heuristics to help them with the rapid mapping of words onto underlying meaning representations.

Breaking Bulimia

Breaking Bulimia

We have all been there: turning to the refrigerator if feeling lonely or bored or indulging in seconds or thirds if strained. But if you suffer from bulimia, the from time to time urge to overeat is more like an obsession.

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