Constraint on word-learning constraints

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Many researchers have agreed that word learning in young children is guided by so-called "word-learning principles." However, these principles may make it difficult to learn a substantial part of the lexicon unless they are appropriately controlled. To learn proper names, the taxonomic assumption and/or the shape bias must be overridden; to learn names for substances, withdrawal of the whole-object assumption and/or the shape bias is required; and to learn lexical hierarchies, the mutual exclusivity assumption must be suspended. In certain languages, syntax can provide useful information in this situation. For example, if a novel noun is given to an object for which the name is known in the syntactic frame "This is X," English-speaking children may assume the noun to be a proper noun, and this will help them override the taxonomic assumption. However, this information is not available to Japanese children, since the Japanese language does not have grammatical markers to flag the distinction between count nouns and mass nouns, or the distinction between proper nouns and common nouns. In this paper, I discuss how Japanese children get around this problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-20
Number of pages16
JournalJapanese Psychological Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Constraint
  • Crosslinguistic comparison
  • Noun acquisition
  • Syntactic cues
  • Word-learning principles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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