The Interplay of Cross‐Situational Word Learning and Sentence‐Level Constraints

Cognitive Science 39 (5):849-889 (2015)
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A variety of mechanisms contribute to word learning. Learners can track co-occurring words and referents across situations in a bottom-up manner. Equally, they can exploit sentential contexts, relying on top–down information such as verb–argument relations and world knowledge, offering immediate constraints on meaning. When combined, CSWL and SLCL potentially modulate each other's influence, revealing how word learners deal with multiple mechanisms simultaneously: Do they use all mechanisms? Prefer one? Is their strategy context dependent? Three experiments conducted with adult learners reveal that learners prioritize SLCL over CSWL. CSWL is applied in addition to SLCL only if SLCL is not perfectly disambiguating, thereby complementing or competing with it. These studies demonstrate the importance of investigating word-learning mechanisms simultaneously, revealing important characteristics of their interaction in more naturalistic learning environments



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