Feature Biases in Early Word Learning: Network Distinctiveness Predicts Age of Acquisition

Cognitive Science 40 (6):n/a-n/a (2016)
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Do properties of a word's features influence the order of its acquisition in early word learning? Combining the principles of mutual exclusivity and shape bias, the present work takes a network analysis approach to understanding how feature distinctiveness predicts the order of early word learning. Distance networks were built from nouns with edge lengths computed using various distance measures. Feature distinctiveness was computed as a distance measure, showing how far an object in a network is from other objects based on shared and non-shared features. Feature distinctiveness predicted order of acquisition across all measures: Words that were further away from other words in the network space were learned earlier. The best distance measures were based only on non-shared features and did not include shared features. This indicates that shared features may play less of a role in early word learning than non-shared features. In addition, the strongest effects were found for visual form and surface features. Cluster analysis further revealed that this effect is a localized effect in the object feature space, where objects' distances from their cluster centroid were inversely correlated with their age of acquisition. Together, these results suggest a role for feature distinctiveness in early word learning.



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