The relation of children's early word acquisition to abduction

Foundations of Science 9 (3):307-320 (2004)
The paper discusses how abduction relates tochildren's early acquisition of words, and has three sections: (a) a brief description of Peirce's notion of abduction; (b) a developmentof a hypothesis for the content-related symbolic functioning of words; and (c)arguments that children's knowledge of such functioning involves two kinds of abduction. In (b), children's knowledge of the content-related symbolic functioning of words is argued to consist in practical knowledge ofhow to use words to direct attention to kindsof things. To acquire such knowledge, a childmust form a practical causal hypothesis aboutthe kind of thing to which a word directs attention. I argue that forming such ahypothesis involves abduction. On the basis of empirical work of several developmentalists, I also argue that children use abduction notmerely in forming practical hypotheses for the functioning of their earliest words, but also in forming theoretical hypotheses about core(as contrasted perceptual and functional)features of natural and artificial kinds.
Keywords abduction  language acquisition  Charles Sanders Peirce
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