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Naming as a function of linguistic form-class and object categories*

  • M. Michael Akiyama (a1) and Sharon A. Wilcox (a2)

Abstract

We examined whether children rely on linguistic information (i.e. mass vs. count nouns) or object category information (i.e. objects vs. substances) when they name things. A grinder test was used, in which substances (e.g. water) maintain identity through transformation but objects (e.g. a cup) do not. Thirty children aged three through six were asked if the same name could be used for the same item after transformation. The items included pairs of amorphous substances and discrete objects (e.g. water – a cup), perceptually similar discrete objects (e.g. chalk – a crayon), and food items (e.g. corn – a bean). Children accepted the same name for food, ignoring linguistic information, and for objects, relying on linguistic information. In Experiment 2, 32 children aged five through eight were asked if the same name could be used for unfamiliar hardware and food items after transformation when they were labelled by nonsense mass and count nouns. Children tended to use the same name for food, relying on perceptual information. These results are discussed in terms of the active conceptualization about names of objects in relation to object characteristics.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Department of Behavioral Sciences, University of Michigan–Dearborn, Dearborn, MI 48128, USA.

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We would like to thank the children, teachers and parents at the Children's Research Center and the Children's Development Center affiliated with the University of Michigan and at St Alphonsus grade school, whose co-operation was essential in conducting our research. We also would like to thank Kathy Straub and Amy David for collecting data for Experiment 1 and a pilot study to Experiment 2. Amy David conducted Experiment 2 as a student project under the supervision of the first author. Doug Behrend, Bill Croft, Susan Gelman, Peter Gordon and Marilyn Shatz made useful comments on earlier versions of our manuscript.

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References

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Naming as a function of linguistic form-class and object categories*

  • M. Michael Akiyama (a1) and Sharon A. Wilcox (a2)

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