Word Learning as Category Formation

AbstractA fundamental question in word learning is how, given only evidence about what objects a word has previously referred to, children are able to generalize the total class (Smith & Medin, 1981; Xu & Tenenbaum, 2007). E.g. how a child ends up knowing that ‘poodle’ only picks out a specific subset of dogs rather than the whole class and vice versa. The Naive Generalization Model (NGM) presented in this paper offers an explanation of word learning phenomena grounded in category formation (Smith & Medin, 1981) The NGM captures a range of relevant experimental findings (Xu & Tenenbaum, 2007; Spencer, Perone, Smith, & Samuelson, 2011), including those which cannot straight-forwardly be accounted for on a Bayesian inference theory (Xu & Tenenbaum, 2007).

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