Simple mechanisms, rich structure: Statistical co-occurrence regularities in language shape the development of semantic knowledge

AbstractMany hallmarks of human intelligence including language, reasoning, and planning require us to draw upon knowledge about the world in which concepts, denoted by words, are organized by meaningful, semantic links between them (e.g., juicy-apple-pear). The goal of the present research was to investigate how these organized semantic networks may emerge in development from simple but powerful mechanisms sensitive to statistical co-occurrence regularities of word use in language. Specifically, we tested whether a mechanistic account of how co-occurrence regularities shape semantic development accurately predicts how semantic organization changes with development. Using a sensitive, gaze-based measure of the semantic links organizing knowledge in children and adults, we observed that developmental changes in semantic organization were consistent with a key role for statistical co-occurrence regularities.

Return to previous page