Gianluca Gini Beatrice Benelli

Conceptual and metalinguistic components in children's definition of nouns

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The study was aimed at analysing the role of the conceptual organization of the mental lexicon, measured through a free association task, and of the metalinguistic awareness on preschool and school-aged children's definitional skills (N = 116, age: 5-8 years). Our results showed that the use of the superordinate term in the definitional formula "an x is an y" (e.g. a dog is an animal) is a cognitive and conceptual acquisition and depends upon the shift from the conceptual to the semantic system, which is hierarchically organized (Nelson, 1996). In contrast, Aristotelian definitions, in which specific information follow the categorical term ("an x is an y + z": a dog is an animal that barks), depend upon the acquisition of good metalinguistic abilities.


  • Definitional skills
  • metalinguistic awareness
  • conceptual development
  • mental lexicon
  • children


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