Title

Children's and Adults’ Understanding of Proper Namable Things

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2-2004

Journal

First Language

Volume

24

Issue

1

First Page

5

Last Page

32

URL with Digital Object Identifier

http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0142723704040548

Abstract

In two studies, we explored 5-year-olds’ and adults’ beliefs about entities that receive reference by proper names. In Study 1 we used two tasks: (1) a listing task in which participants stated what things in the world can and cannot receive proper names, and (2) an explanation task in which they explained why some things merit proper names. Children’s lists of proper namable things were more centred than adults’ on living animate entities and their surrogates (e.g., dolls and stuffed animals). Both children’s and adults’ lists of non-namable things contained a predominance of artefacts. Both age groups offered similar explanations for proper namability, the most common of which pertained to the desire or need to identify objects as individuals (or to distinguish them from other objects). In Study 2 we replicated the main results of the Study 1 listing task, using a modified set of instructions. The findings establish a set of norms about the scope and coherence of children’s and adults’ concept of a proper namable entity, and they place constraints on an account of how children learn proper names (Macnamara, 1982, 1986).

Notes

Dr. William Turkel is currently a faculty member at The University of Western Ontario.