Over and Underextension

From: Gooding Hilary (hkg195@soton.ac.uk)
Date: Tue May 21 1996 - 16:21:18 BST


Overextention in word learning involves the extention of the use of a
word learnt to cover a wider set of circumstances, events or objects
than it should be used for. This is very common in young children. An
example of overextention is when a child uses the word "doggie" to
label horses, cows, and other 4 legged animals. Some overextentions can
be understood in terms of perceptual simularities of different objects,
for example all round objects including cakes and the sun are called
"ball". The opposite to this is underextention. This is when a word is
used for a smaller, more select and specialist category than it should
be. This is also common in children. An example is when a child calls
the family's cat "kitty", but no other cat is labelled by this name.
This process only applies to the learning of words and not grammer. The
processes of over- and underextention of words are methods of
categorisation. In overextention too many things are categorised
together, whereas in underextention some members of the category are
being left out. The mistakes which are made by getting the features
wrong are a help to learn what should be in each category.

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