Words, Concepts, and Object Individuation in Infancy

by Fei Xu

Several questions have been central to the study of cognitive and language development, e.g., the initial state of a human infant's cognitive capacities, what develops over time, and what mechanisms drive development. In this talk, I will try to address these questions in the domain of object individuation in infancy, that is, the process by which infants establish distinct individual objects and categories of objects in their environment. I will argue that (1) there is an early developing object-based individuation system in infants, (2) a second, relatively late developing kind-based individuation system emerges by the end of the first year of life, and (3) the development of the kind-based individuation system may be driven by language learning.

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