The Sources Of Young Children's Name Innovations For Novel Artifacts

Document Type


Publication Date


Published In

Journal Of Child Language


Two studies investigated whether four-year-old children (12 in Experiment 1 with a mean age of 4;8 and 36 in Experiment 2 with a mean age of 4;7) invent names for new artifacts based on the objects' functions as opposed to their perceptual properties. Children informed about the intended functions of novel objects provided more name innovations that were clearly function-based than perception-based. This tendency was observed when children were shown the objects' functions, even if they were also given verbal descriptions of the objects' perceptual properties and parts. Only when ignorant of the objects' intended functions did children tend to use perceptual features to create substantial numbers of names. Accordingly, results from this name-innovation methodology converge with findings from some recent studies of lexical categorization suggesting that functional information is critical to how preschoolers extend artifact names. Children appear to appreciate an intimate relation between the functions of artifacts and how they are named.

This document is currently not available here.