Foundations of Science

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 307–320 | Cite as

The Relation of Children's Early Word Acquisition to Abduction

  • Lawrence D. Roberts


The paper discusses how abduction relates tochildren's early acquisition of words, and hasthree sections: (a) a brief description ofPeirce's notion of abduction; (b) a developmentof a hypothesis for the content-relatedsymbolic functioning of words; and (c)arguments that children's knowledge of suchfunctioning involves two kinds of abduction. In (b), children's knowledge of thecontent-related symbolic functioning of wordsis argued to consist in practical knowledge ofhow to use words to direct attention to kindsof things. To acquire such knowledge, a childmust form a practical causal hypothesis aboutthe kind of thing to which a word directsattention. I argue that forming such ahypothesis involves abduction. On the basis ofempirical work of several developmentalists, Ialso argue that children use abduction notmerely in forming practical hypotheses for thefunctioning of their earliest words, but alsoin forming theoretical hypotheses about core(as contrasted perceptual and functional)features of natural and artificial kinds.

abduction attention first language acquisition hypothesis lexical meaning practical knowledge symbol 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

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  • Lawrence D. Roberts

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