A synthesis of logical reasoning and word learning abilities in children and adults – Justin Halberda (Johns Hopkins University)

March 27, 2007 all-day

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In this talk I will bring together two literatures: 1) work on word-learning in young children, and 2) work on the developmental origins of logical reasoning. The predominant view in each of these literatures has been that word learning is supported by probabilistic (non-deductive) inference mechanisms, and that children display no abstract logical competence until after 5 or more years of age (after the onset of robust language ability). I will make a case that two-year-old children have access to a particular domain general logical reasoning strategy (Disjunctive Syllogism) and that they bring this strategy to bear on the task of learning new words. This reveals a logical competence that has not been observed before in young children and it begins to reveal the logical computations that support word learning constraints.

Center for Language and Speech Processing