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Shape Bias in Word Learning

Young children are adept word learners, by some estimates, acquiring as many as nine new words a day. This amazing feat is made easier by certain constraints or biases that favor some assumptions about the meaning of words over others. For example, when learning a new object name, such as cup, children tend to link the meaning of the word to the physical shape of the cup rather than to other dimensions that match on size, color, or material. This phenomenon is known as the shape bias and is evident by 2 years of age. Although the existence of the shape bias is undisputed among language researchers, the nature and origin of the bias remains highly debated. At stake is the intriguing question of whether ...

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