Fast Mapping in Lexical Development

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  • The first time children encounter a new word, they form a rough-and-ready hypothesis about its meaning on the basis of the linguistic and nonlinguistic context in which the word is heard, a process known as fast mapping. Fast mapping is made possible by the child's possession of a set of word-learning biases or assumptions, which serve to limit the set of hypotheses the child will consider about a new word's meaning. Fast mapping is particularly facilitated by the child's bias to avoid overlap between the meanings of words. Words are assumed to be mutually exclusive in their reference, such that each word's meaning contrasts with all others. Thus, on hearing an unfamiliar word, the child is immediately able to rule out all potential meanings for ...

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