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Learning abstract words and concepts: insights from developmental language disorder

Ponari, M; Norbury, CF; Rotaru, A; Lenci, A; Vigliocco, G; (2018) Learning abstract words and concepts: insights from developmental language disorder. Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences , 373 (1752) 10.1098/rstb.2017.0140. Green open access

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Abstract

Some explanations of abstract word learning suggest that these words are learnt primarily from the 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 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. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Varieties of abstract concepts: development, use and representation in the brain’.

Type: Article
Title: Learning abstract words and concepts: insights from developmental language disorder
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2017.0140
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2017.0140
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Language and Cognition
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10053793
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