Two Pragmatic Principles in Language Use and Acquisition

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Speakers, adults and children, rely on two pragmatic principles in language use: conventionality in the meanings of the words chosen to convey their intentions, and contrast among these meanings. Early recognition of these two principles allows children to add readily to their lexical repertoire on the assumption from contrast that any difference in form marks some difference in meaning. Evidence for the role of these principles in acquisition comes from early word uses, adherence to the word(s) learnt for a category, repairs to lexical choices, the construction of lexical domains, and patterns of acquisition in the uptake of unfamiliar words.


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