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By any other name: when will preschoolers produce several labels for a referent?

  • GEDEON O. DEÁK (a1), LOULEE YEN (a1) and JEREMY PETTIT (a2)

Abstract

Two experiments investigated why preschool children sometimes produce multiple words for a referent (i.e. POLYNOMY), but other times seem to allow only one word. In Experiment 1, 40 three- and four-year-olds completed a modification of Deák & Maratsos' (1998) naming task. Although social demands to produce multiple words were reduced, children produced, on average, more than two words per object. Number of words produced was predicted by receptive vocabulary. Lexical insight (i.e. knowing that a word refers to function or appearance) and metalexical beliefs (i.e. that a hypothetical referent has one label, or more than one) were not preconditions of polynomy. Polynomy was independent of bias to map novel words to unfamiliar referents. In Experiment 2, 40 three- and four-year-olds learned new words for nameable objects. Children showed a correction effect, yet produced more than two words per object. Children do not have a generalized one-word-per-object bias, even during word learning. Other explanations (e.g. contextual restriction of lexical access) are discussed.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Gedeon Deák, Department of Cognitive Science, University of California at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla CA 92093-0515, USA. e-mail: deak@cogsci.ucsd.edu

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Gedeon Deák is now at the Department of Cognitive Science, University of California at San Diego. Loulee Yen is at the John F. Kennedy Center, Vanderbilt University. Jeremy Pettit is at the Department of Psychology, Florida State University. This research was supported by a NAE–Spencer fellowship to the first author. Experiment 2 was conducted by the second author as a master's project. The authors thank the children who participated in this research, and the staff at Belle Meade Methodist, Radnor Baptist, West End Methodist, Woodmont Baptist, and Woodmont Christian preschools in Nashville, TN.

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By any other name: when will preschoolers produce several labels for a referent?

  • GEDEON O. DEÁK (a1), LOULEE YEN (a1) and JEREMY PETTIT (a2)

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