The pragmatics of word learning

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Children use and integrate a variety of information when learning novel words. Most strikingly, children are skillful in drawing inferences about speakers’ intentions. This chapter reviews the current state of affairs regarding the wide variety of pragmatic information that children employ in word learning. Current debates on whether seemingly pragmatic phenomena in word learning should be explained by simpler processes are addressed throughout the chapter. Suggestions for future research directions are made. Finally, I suggest that in order to acknowledge the role that pragmatic information plays in word learning, the field needs to come to an agreement on what it is that children acquire in word learning: word-object/concept-associations or means to communicate and direct other’s attention to certain objects?


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