Not Only Size Matters: Early‐Talker and Late‐Talker Vocabularies Support Different Word‐Learning Biases in Babies and Networks

Cognitive Science 41 (S1):73-95 (2017)
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In typical development, word learning goes from slow and laborious to fast and seemingly effortless. Typically developing 2-year-olds seem to intuit the whole range of things in a category from hearing a single instance named—they have word-learning biases. This is not the case for children with relatively small vocabularies. We present a computational model that accounts for the emergence of word-learning biases in children at both ends of the vocabulary spectrum based solely on vocabulary structure. The results of Experiment 1 show that late-talkers' and early-talkers' noun vocabularies have different structures and that neural networks trained on the vocabularies of individual late talkers acquire different word-learning biases than those trained on early-talker vocabularies. These models make novel predictions about the word-learning biases in these two populations. Experiment 2 tests these predictions on late- and early-talking toddlers in a novel noun generalization task.



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