An ideational account of early word learning: A plausibility assessment

Rita Nolan
2001 Behavioral and Brain Sciences  
The theoretical framework of Bloom's account of child word learning is here assessed only for initial plausibility and neural plausibility. The verdict on both dimensions is low, largely due to the size and character of knowledge it is claimed that the child brings to the task. It is suggested that elements of constructivist accounts could profitably be drawn from to reduce this implausibility. Bloom construes early word learning as a mapping task in which the word maps onto a psychological
more » ... ty that is a concept. His test for successful mapping of referential terms is getting their extensions right; a concept's role is to pick out the right category of things in order for the sole business of the language, communication, to proceed. The local linguistic context generally provides only the languagespecific word to be mapped onto the pre-and non-linguistic concept, which plays much the same role as Locke's "ideas" did (Locke 1690), minus his tabula rasa. To solve the mapping problem, the child uses multiple strategies, of which the central one is discerning the intentions of speakers. In the basket of competencies available to the child, essentialism, the assumption that many individuals are referred to by the same word because of a shared hidden essence, is also a significant asset. Drawing upon a wealth of experimental results, Bloom applies this explanation to defeat the alternative explanations of empiricist associationism and of specifically linguistic constraints.
doi:10.1017/s0140525x0134013x fatcat:vw4hciy4ajbanbzx3akpncbxx4