The effects of joint reference and mutual exclusivity on the application of whole-object assumption in Filipino preschoolers


Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC College of Education


Dept of English and Applied Linguistics

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Several studies have been done to analyze language acquisition among young children and have shown that children initially ascribe new words to mean whole objects. However, when familiar objects are presented with novel labels, young children seem take these labels to mean salient parts or attributes instead of as alternative names (Markman, 1992; Maher 2004). This study’s focus is on how the whole object assumption is superseded by mutual exclusivity, along with Baldwin’s (1989, cited in Markman, 1992) observation of the value of a joint reference between adult speaker and child in word learning. Adapting Markman’s (1992) test procedure, five male and five female Filipino preschoolers aged 3-4 years were randomly selected and individually presented with three sets of materials that each tested the validity and occurrences of the whole object assumption, mutual exclusivity, and joint reference. Using a different set of instruments originally adapted from Markman’s (1992), the study yielded unexpected results slightly deviant of Markman’s claims. Firstly, striking colors and brightly colored patterns are shown to influence young children’s perception of whole objects in a more significant manner than initially assumed. Secondly, it seems that mutual exclusivity is only applied to novel word learning upon reaching a certain cognitive maturity, which was observed to come earlier to females than males. Lastly, joint reference might play a less significant role in word learning as children grow to become more verbally communicative and less dependent on social cues.



South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies


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Language acquisition

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