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How Children Learn the Meanings of Words (Learning, Development, and Conceptual Change) Reprint Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262523295
ISBN-10: 0262523299
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Editorial Reviews

Review

... this book is likely to have a profound impact on the field of child language.

(Anne Bezuidenhout Metapsychology Online Review)

This is a tremendously important book. It provides a new theoretical perspective on language learning, consolidating and making sense of a wealth of new research findings.

(Susan A. Gelman, University of Michigan)

In lucid prose that will be accessible even to beginners, Paul Bloom weaves together everything that is known about word-learning--from when it starts to how it depends on a child's understanding of the world--into a sophisticated, nuanced tapestry that will dazzle researchers. What is particularly impressive about the book is that Bloom manages to steer between the extremes of nativism and empiricism that have too often stifled progress in our field. Neither committed blindly to nativism nor to its opposite, Bloom accepts nativism where it is needed, and rejects it where it is not. A tour de force.

(Gary F. Marcus, Associate Professor of Psychology, New York University)

This elegant book is ostensibly on how children learn words, and indeed, Bloom has many original and surprising things to say on this matter. But the book is much, much more-- a tour de force romp through topics ranging from children's understanding of art to their understanding of number, from their understanding of bodies to their understanding of souls. It's a great read. Anybody concerned with langauge, cognition, or development will find much of interest here.

(Susan Carey, Department of Psychology, New York University)

Paul Bloom offers us an intriguing account of how children grasp meaning, how this process is linked to their gorwing appreciation of how other people think, and how they convey their views and intentions in communication. The story he tells here is clear, engaging, and well-documented, with a pleasant absence of contention and polemic. He provides an excellent accounting of where we are now, and points to the many questions that remain to be answered. This book is an excellent introduction to this aspect of language acquisition.

(Eve V. Clark, Professor of Linguistics & Symbolic Systems, Stanford University)

About the Author

Paul Bloom is Professor of Psychology at Yale University.

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Product Details

  • Series: Learning, Development, and Conceptual Change
  • Paperback: 314 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book; Reprint edition (March 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262523299
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262523295
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #761,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderfully informative, readable, and engaging book about how children learn words, and more generally about children's early conceptual knowledge and understanding of the minds of other people. Anyone interested in how children learn language, or in the relationship between language and thought, will enjoy this book. The author surveys a large body of the latest, most exciting research findings about how children learn words, and presents his own very interesting proposals, covering such issues as: The prelinguistic concepts that infants and young children possess, how they read the minds of others in order to decide what a speaker is referring to when they hear a new word, how they attend to certain aspects of the world at the expense of others when considering possible meanings for a new word; in short, how children are able to perform such a remarkable feat as learning a language in their first few years of life. The book also addresses such deep and interesting issues as whether the language one learns influences how one sees and thinks about the world. I highly recommend this book to those who are interested in children's early language and thought and its development.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a marvelous synthesis of research, by the author, his students, and many others, on how children learn the meanings of words. It makes clear why learning the meanings of words is a difficult task requiring explication, which is not immediately obvious, and then presents a great deal of evidence bearing on how it is done. As someone accustomed to reading very critically and frequently finding faults and gaps even in arguments to which I am sympathetic, I was amazed at how rarely I could find anything to quibble with. The book is also very balanced theoretically; the author considers a wide range of possible factors, from innate constraints on lexical semantics to general principles of theory of mind, and argues his case very fairly.
The book is not always easy reading, but it is always clear and pleasant. In a few cases the interpretation of an experiment described will not be entirely clear to someone with no background in psycholinguistics; in a few others, linguistic ideas are referred to without much explanation. Overall, however, the book should be accessible even to those without specialized trainng in linguistics or psychology.
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Format: Paperback
The author states in the final chapter that "nobody knows how children learn the meanings of words", and accordingly refrains from pretending to tell us. Instead, this book consists mostly of the summaries of language acquisition research, beautifully weaved together into a coherent text by the author, who gently prods us toward results that he finds most plausible, without claiming to know the one true answer.

For a layman curious about the field, this is a great overview. For a novice linguistics researcher wanting to get oriented and pointed in the right direction for further reading, this is a great starting place. For an artificial intelligence researcher who wants yet more reminders of just how tough the natural language problem is, this is a bountiful source of reminders.

Reading is slow-going at times, not due to poor writing, but due to a very large amount of content stuffed into relatively few pages. If you gloss over a page or two, you may well get lost.
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Format: Hardcover
I have a two year old and a newborn. This topic is of immediate interest to me. But this isn't why I bought it.
As a product designer I wanted to gain some perspective on how we acquire language in the first place and found most of the documentation weak. Then I found this book.
I realy enjoyed reading it. I left my copy on the plane on a trip overseas and was greatly disapointed by the airlines failure to recover it (I sure hope the cleaning crew enjoyed it!). So I bought another copy immediately and continued reading.
One of my favorite books this year.
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