Child Language Development: Semantic Knowledge
Child language development in semantic knowledge consists of building up the lexical entry of a word until their words will match that of an adult. Children begin by using a word in a restricted setting, eventually they start using the word in a larger semantic network and they learn to detach it from the situation in which they gained this knowledge.
Categorical Concepts in Semantic Development: Overextension and Underextension
When infants start to use identifiable words they do not know the full capacity of the adult meaning. During the infants’ gradual semantic network building there is evidence of overextension and underextension of categorical concepts occurring in their speech.
An overextension may occur when a word is extended to apply to other objects that share a certain feature, such as a common property of shape, colour or size. Dog might be applied to other animals or moon to other circular objects.
Underextension occurs when a word is used with a more restricted meaning than it has in the adult language. Dog might be used only to refer to the family dog or shoes only applied to the child’s personal shoes.
Semantic Development in Children
Children acquire meaning in a fragmentary way. Children often tend to acquire words which encapsulate an entire category of objects or living things and use those words until their vocabulary becomes sufficiently rich and versatile. Thus a child who knows the word plane may use it for helicopters, space shuttles and even birds since all such things can fly.
Children mentally create a linking semantic network between objects which share similarities but for which they have not yet learned individual words. For instance, if a child refers to a van or an ambulance as car it is because the child has not yet acquired all the distinctive features that differentiate a van from a car within the vehicles category.
What are Semantic Features?