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The role of inferences about referential intent in word learning: Evidence from autism.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date08/2005
JournalCognition
Journal number1
Volume97
Number of pages11
PagesB13-B23
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Young children are readily able to use known labels to constrain hypotheses about the meanings of new words under conditions of referential ambiguity. At issue is the kind of information children use to constrain such hypotheses. According to one theory, children take into account the speaker’s intention when solving a referential puzzle. In the present studies, children with autism were impaired in monitoring referential intent, but were equally successful as normally developing 24-month-old toddlers at mapping novel words to unnamed items under conditions of referential ambiguity. Therefore, constraints that lead the child to map a novel label to a previously unnamed object under these circumstances are not solely based on assessments of speakers’ intentions.