How Children Learn the Reference of Concrete Nouns: A Critique of Current Hypotheses

  • William E. Merriman
Part of the Springer Series in Cognitive Development book series (SSCOG)


This chapter will trace the historical development of several recent hypotheses about the acquisition of concrete noun reference. This history will begin with the many hypotheses proposed in the seminal papers of Clark (1973a) and Nelson (1974), since much attention over the last 10 years has focused on these hypotheses. Clark and Nelson have responded to developments subsequent to the publication of their hypotheses by revising, extending, and, in some cases, abandoning them as well as by contributing new hypotheses. Four avenues will be taken in critiquing the hypotheses of Clark and Nelson: (a) the hypotheses will be assessed for how well they account for the data they were designed to explain; (b) alternative explanations of these data will be sought; (c) the logical consistency of the hypotheses will be examined; and (d) research in which implications of the hypotheses have been confirmed or disconfirmed will be analyzed. The chapter will dwell on the inadequacies of the hypotheses of Clark and Nelson with the goal of developing a more accurate and more complete account of how children learn the reference of concrete nouns.


Salient Function Semantic Feature Complexive Word Object Concept Functional Core 
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  • William E. Merriman

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