On the Evidence for Prelinguistic Concepts

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THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, ISSN: 2171-679X, Vol: 20, Issue: 3, Page: 287-297

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Gauker, Christopher
Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del País Vasco
article description
Language acquisition is often said to be a process of mapping words into pre-existing concepts. If that is right, then we ought to be able to obtain experimental evidence for the existence of concepts in prelinguistic children. One line of research that attempts to provide such evidence is the work of Paul Quinn, who claims that looking-time results show that four-month old infants form “category representations”. This paper argues that Quinn’s results have an alternative explanation. A distinction is drawn between conceptual thought and the perception of comparative similarity relations, and it is argued that Quinn’s results can be explained in terms of the latter rather than the former.