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The Innate MindStructure and Contents$
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Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence, and Stephen Stich

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195179675

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195179675.001.0001

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Two Insights about Naming in the Preschool Child *

Two Insights about Naming in the Preschool Child *

(p.198) 12 Two Insights about Naming in the Preschool Child*
The Innate Mind

Susan A. Gelman (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines associationist models of cognitive development, focusing on the development of naming in young children — the process by which young children learn of construct the meanings of words and concepts. It presents two early-emerging insights that children possess about the nature of naming. These insights are: (1) essentialism: certain words map onto nonobvious, underlying causal features (e.g., dogs are alike in internal and subtle respects, even if they look quite different on the surface), and (2) genericity: certain expressions map onto generic kinds (e.g., dogs as an abstract category) as opposed to particular instances (e.g., one or more specific dogs). The chapter discusses empirical studies with preschool children to support the contention that essentialism and genericity emerge early in development and that neither insight is directly taught. It also explores the question of whether these insights can be derived wholly from a direct reading of cues that are ‘out there’in the world, and concludes that they cannot. The implications of these findings for innateness are then considered. It is argued that both essentialism and genericity provide cues regarding plausible candidates for innate conceptual knowledge in children.

Keywords:   cognitive development, words, concepts, children, essentialism, genericity, innateness

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