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Language Development

Semantics

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Morphemes
 
Morphemes carry the smallest units of meaning. They cannot be divided, yet they can be big such as with the word elephant, or small such as the 's' in dogs.
Ex:
ketchup = 1 morpheme
raced = 2 morphemes (race + past tense 'ed')
Mrs. Conner = 1 morpheme (to a child, a person's name is all one word)

Sitting pooch

Children are constantly developing new strategies for learning the meaning of words and relating them. This being said, It is important to point the probably obvious...
Every word has a referent. Every word refers to something. But, a referent isn't the meaning of the word mind you! No no, in fact, the relationship between a name and an object is quite arbitrary (Morris, 1946).
 
What is more, is that this relationship, however arbitrary, does carry symbolic meaning. For example, the word 'table'.
Think of a table. Go on and picture it!
Goood.. You see, everyone has a different mental image of a table, yet, if one of you saw a different table, one that did not match your mental image you just formed, that doesn't mean that the word 'table'  doesn't have meaning anymore. It still has meaning since the word table is a cognitive construct. Similarly, regardless if the table was different than your mental image, you would still know it was a table. This is because you have grasped the idea of categorical concepts.
 
********************I must add that it is possible for a word and it's referent to have a relationship that is not arbitrary. For example, like where the referent is what any English majors would call an onomatopoeia, meaning, the referent sounds like the word sound. IE: bark, thump, or buzz. (Berko Gleason, J., 2005)

Coffee table

So how are categorical concepts developed?

Semantic Feature View

Child forms a concept based on their view of the underlying features of the objects. Child learns the distinguishing features relevant to each categorical concept. Features are viewed first from general to specific, and there has to be common critical features (or chosen features) in order for an object to be included in the category. For example: dog- four legs, head, furry, then comes has a tail, barks, etc. Thus, it is an additive process. The focus here is on perceptual features.
(Clark, 1974)

Functional Core Hypothesis

Children form a concept by way of viewing objects in terms of instances, as the whole, not a sum of parts or features. Ex: the cocept of 'doll' consists of many objects. You play with a doll, cuddle it, feed it, etc. Objects are looked at for the function, not by perceptual features.

Prototype Theory

Core concepts called prototypes are obtained when they take on a meaning. The child picks the most average example of the category, the one that has the most common characteristics, and compares the novel object to this common example. For ex: what is a more typical bird? a robin? a penguin? You will more than likely say a robin since it has more of the typical features of a bird (it flies and chirps) where as a penguin does not. A child does not categorize other members of their category that do not resemble the prototypes until much later.
(Rosch, 1973)

Probablistic Strategy

Child forms a concept depending on whether the concept has similar features. If it does, then researchers say that the child will put it in the category because of the probability that it belongs. Ex: It looks enough like this, so it is this.