Volume 19, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1572-0373
  • E-ISSN: 1572-0381
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Here we study polysemy as a potential learning bias in vocabulary learning in children. Words of low polysemy could be preferred as they reduce the disambiguation effort for the listener. However, such preference could be a side-effect of another bias: the preference of children for nouns in combination with the lower polysemy of nouns with respect to other part-of-speech categories.

Our results show that mean polysemy in children increases over time in two phases, i.e. a fast growth till the 31st month followed by a slower tendency towards adult speech. In contrast, this evolution is not found in adults interacting with children. This suggests that children have a preference for non-polysemous words in their early stages of vocabulary acquisition. Interestingly, the evolutionary pattern described above weakens when controlling for syntactic category (noun, verb, adjective or adverb) but it does not disappear completely, suggesting that it could result from a combination of a standalone bias for low polysemy and a preference for nouns.


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