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Lexical and semantic development
What is a word?
· Steven Pinker refers to a word as `a stretch of
sound that expresses a concept'.
· Only when a word can be related to an object (or
referent) can it be called a genuine word (Pinker).
· The referent is the object or person in the real
word to which a sound consistently relates.
· The sounds children produce develop from cooing
to babbling and then into the proto-word stage.
· Proto-words are sounds that resemble actual
words but aren't consistently applied to their
referents.…read more

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First words and rate of
· First recognisable word appears usually at about 12 months.
· Once children reach 18 months they will usually have a productive vocabulary
of about 50 words (that they can say ­ will understand more).
· By the age of 24 months ­ about 200 word productive vocabulary; by 36 words
­ 2000.
· Most linguistics reckon that the rate of lexical acquisition is close to 10 words
a day.
· Children's first words tend to fall into similar categories. Katherine Nelson's
four categories: naming, action, social and modifying ­ naming was the largest
category ­ over 60% of children's first words are nouns ­ Elizabeth Spelke
notes that children prefer objects that are `solid, still and continuous'.
· Some linguists identify children as `referential children' ­ early words are
largely nouns or `expressive children' ­ prefer to use action and social words.
· The variation of first words depends on the environment ­ e.g. a child from the
countryside might learn words like `cow' and `tractor' whilst a city child might
learn `road' and `car' ­ supports theories regarding input.…read more

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Holophrases, over and under extension:
· Holophrases are one word utterances used to communicate
more than the one word on its own ­ hold different meanings.
· Children often overextend their early words to cover more
things with similar properties to the original object.
· They can also underextend words to cover a narrower definition
of a word's meanings.
· Linguist Leslie Rescorla noted three forms of overextension in
her 1980 study:
­ Categorical overextension ­ when the label is stretched to include other
words within a similar, larger category. It is only when the child has
picked up other hyponyms that these start to disappear ­ e.g. calling
every type of fruit and `apple'.
­ Analogical overextension ­ when the overextension is related to the
function of an object ­ e.g. a scarf might be called `cat' when it is stroked
by a child.
­ Mismatch or predicative statements ­ convey abstract information - e.g.
labelling a cot, `doll' as this is where the doll would usually be found.…read more

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Building meanings:
· Jean Aitchison identified three stages in children's
acquisition of words and their meanings.
Labelling Associating sounds with objects in the world around the child
Linking words to things
Understanding the concept of labels
E.g. `cat'
Packaging Starting to explore the extent of the label
Often the stage during which over and underextension occur
most frequently
E.g. `four legs' `fur' `pet'
Network building Making connections between the labels they have developed
Understanding opposites and similarities, relationships and
E.g. When the child makes connections between cat as a label
and as a type of animal…read more



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