Mowgli in the jungle of words: Comprehension and later lexical development.


Production data suggest that meanings of common nouns continue to change well past the early years of language acquisition (Andersen, 1975; Ameel, Malt, & Storms, 2008). Here we used two comprehension tasks to further evaluate the nature of later lexical learning. In a name applicability task, seven- to 13-year old Dutch-speaking children judged whether each of three names applied to common household containers. In a typicality judgment task, participants judged how good an example the containers were of the three names. Both tasks revealed continued evolution of word use up to age 13. However, all names were overextended by the children, in contrast to the production data in which both over- and underextension were found. Moreover, the child lexical categories showed considerable overlap, indicating strong inter-category relatedness. With age these overextensions as well as the overlap gradually disappeared and the lexical categories became more distinct over time.

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