Children's Interpretation of Unfamiliar Categories Using Generic Noun Phrases
Stilwell, Sarah M.
MetadataShow full item record
Presently, little remains known about the way in which knowledge acquisition in children is influenced by language. In order to better understand the relationship between language and knowledge acquisition, a parent-child study was designed to examine this issue. The study included 30 parent-child dyads (children age 4 years 1 month-4 years 9 months with a mean age of 4 years 5 months) and examined the influence of language on children's concepts of unfamiliar categories and knowledge of the world around them. The study consisted of a single visit to a University laboratory in a large Midwestern city. The child participants were videotaped while they completed seven test tasks, each with several trials. During the test tasks, the children were shown numerous pictures of novel creatures called "zarpies" and given property information about the creatures (i.e., "this zarpie loves to eat tulips"). Each participant was randomly assigned to one of the three conditions: generic word condition; "zarpies": 7 boys, 3 girls; non-generic word condition; "this zarpie": 7 boys, 3 girls; no-word control condition; "this one": 7 boys, 3 girls. The experimenter asked the children questions about the zarpies to measure how language controls thought and knowledge acquisition in children. Order randomization was used during the test task trials to ensure counterbalancing among participants. While the children were being tested, the parents completed a paper-and-pencil version of the live experiment practiced with the children. It is predicted. that participants will be more willing to extend properties to new instances of the category when the animal is given a label ("zarpies") compared to when it is not labeled ("this one").