Are nouns learned before verbs? Infants provide insight into a long-standing debate

Sandra Waxman, Xiaolan Fu, Sudha Arunachalam, Erin Leddon, Kathleen Geraghty, Hyun joo Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)


For decades, a spirited debate has existed over whether infants' remarkable capacity to learn words is shaped primarily by universal features of human language or by specific features of the particular native language they are acquiring. A strong focus for this debate has been a well-documented difference in early word learning: Infants' success in learning verbs lags behind their success in learning nouns. In this review, we articulate both sides of the debate and summarize new cross-linguistic evidence from infants that underscores the role of universal features and begins to clarify the impact of distinctly different languages on early language and conceptual development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-159
Number of pages5
JournalChild Development Perspectives
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Sep 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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