Ruth Millikan, Professor Emerita, University of Connecticut. Presented by Philosophy's Annual Francis W. Gramlich Lecture.
Lecture title: "40,000 Words in 14 Years"
Abstract: "From Plato’s teachings to modern conceptual analysis, we are told that to uncover and make explicit the true definitions of many words or concepts, to make articulate their criteria for application, requires considerable effort and often wisdom. Not only are the meanings of words like “knowledge,” “information” and “representation” hard to explain, even simple words like “water” and “chair” and “bird” are argued over both by philosophers and by psychologists. Yet contemporary studies show that average fourteen year olds have already acquired about 40,000 words (not counting proper names) mostly just by hearing or reading them. How is this possible?
It is possible because the kinds of things that can fall together under a single useful term is strongly determined by the world itself (including human activities) making it possible for almost all extensional terms to be directly referential, and because understanding linguistic representations is, or bears a close relation to, direct perception."
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