Tracking the associative boost in infancy.
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Do words that are both associatively and taxonomically related prime each other in the infant mental lexicon? We explore the impact of these semantic relations in the emerging lexicon. Using the head-turn preference procedure, we show that 18-month-old infants have begun to construct a semantic network of associatively and taxonomically related words, such as dog-cat or apple-cheese. We demonstrate that priming between words is longer-lasting when the relationship is both taxonomic and associative, as opposed to purely taxonomic, reflecting the associative boost reported in the adult priming literature. Our results demonstrate that 18-month-old infants are able to construct a lexical-semantic network based on associative and taxonomic relations between words in the network, and that lexical-semantic links are more robust when they are both associative and taxonomic in character. Furthermore, the manner in which activation is propagated through the emerging lexical-semantic network appears to depend upon the type of semantic relation between words. We argue that 18-month-old infants have a mental lexicon that shares important structural and processing properties with that of the adult system.
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