Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
How do children learn the early words? Do linguistic differences influence early lexical development? The Korean language has been the focus of particular interest in answering this question. Unlike English, Korean is a SOV language in which verbs are more likely to occur in the perceptually salient final position of an utterance. In addition, Korean allows for nominal ellipsis, so that the subject of a sentence can be left out. As a result, verbs are perceptually and structurally more salient in Korean language input to children. Do these differences in Korean input make a difference in the pattern of noun and verb acquisition of Korean children?
Theoretical claims for the noun bias
Gentner (1982) has claimed that the semantic structures underlying verbs and other predicates are more complex and open-ended than those of nouns. According to Gentner, nouns are learned before verbs because their semantic structures are less complex than those of verbs. Moreover, children have a conceptual predisposition early on to treat words as mapping onto objects. More recently, the constraints view has also endorsed the noun bias claim. According to Markman (1989), children assume that a novel word applied to an object is likely to refer to the whole object, rather than its parts, its substance, or to its actions and changes of states (the “whole object constraint”). Therefore, the whole object constraint would favor the noun bias in early lexical development. Another constraint also favors the noun bias.