Coloring Outside the Lines: Error Patterns in Children's Acquisition of Color Terms

AbstractA key challenge for children in language acquisition is to learn the mapping of words to mental categories, since this mapping varies greatly from language to language. The errors children make in this process are very informative regarding the development of lexical semantic categories; in particular, how children overextend a word to an inappropriate exemplar provides a window onto the mechanisms that underlie their categorization processes. We perform a large-scale quantitative analysis of the detailed patterns of children's errors in the domain of color, finding evidence that these error patterns are driven by an interaction between domain general principles of categorization, and children's developing knowledge of the semantics of color. Our results suggest that, while domain general processes play a role throughout development, their influence varies across ages according to their use of domain specific (conceptual) knowledge, which gradually increases over time.

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