How does meaning specificity affect verb learning and extension?

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Words learned early are more imageable than words learned later, independent of form class and language. Forty-seven English-speaking three-year-olds participated in this study. Using video display, participants learned two novel verbs. In the training, participants watched two video clips illustrating each verb. For each participant, one novel verb served as a narrow verb, and the other verb as a broad verb. Adults performed almost perfectly at test on both types of verbs while children showed differential learning. Children’s performance on the mapping test was significantly better for the narrow than the broad verb. However, children performed better on the broad verb than the narrow verb on the manner extension test. This study shows that meaning specificity facilitates 3-year-old English-speaking children’s verb fast-mapping, but hinders their verb extension to new manner variations. This study indicates that a narrow range of exemplars may help children form initial categories, which, however, may be too narrow to include novel exemplars with slightly different features. Although a broad range of exemplars does not facilitate initial action category formation, it broadens the breadth of the action category, and facilitates inclusion of novel exemplars. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

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