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Learning Abstract Words and Concepts: Insights from Developmental Language Disorder

Ponari, Marta, Norbury, Courtenay, Rotaru, Armand, Lenci, Alessandro, Vigliocco, Gabriella (2018) Learning Abstract Words and Concepts: Insights from Developmental Language Disorder. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 373 (1752). ISSN 0962-8436. E-ISSN 1471-2970. (doi:10.1098/rstb.2017.0140) (KAR id:66902)

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Some explanations of abstract word learning suggest that these words are learnt primarily from linguistic input, using statistical co-occurrences of words in language whereas concrete words can also rely on non-linguistic, experiential information. According to this hypothesis, we expect that, if the learner is not able to fully exploit the information in the linguistic input, abstract words should be affected more than concrete ones. Embodied approaches, instead, argue that both abstract and concrete words can rely on experiential information and, therefore, there might not be any linguistic primacy. Here, we test the role of linguistic input in the development of abstract knowledge with children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and Typically Developing (TD) children aged 8-13. We show that DLD children, who by definition have impoverished language, do not show a disproportionate impairment for abstract words in lexical decision and definition tasks. These results indicate that linguistic information does not have a primary role in the learning of abstract concepts and words, rather, it would play a significant role in semantic development across all domains of knowledge.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1098/rstb.2017.0140
Uncontrolled keywords: developmental language disorder; language acquisition; abstract concepts; distributional semantics; semantic representation; vocabulary development
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Depositing User: Marta Ponari
Date Deposited: 04 May 2018 11:11 UTC
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2019 11:37 UTC
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