This study investigated the development of noun definition by grade school children and adults (N = 100). Subjects were asked to define 15 common nouns in one of two conditions: with objects present or without objects present. Definitions were classified on the basis of perceptual attributes (Concrete), everyday usage (Functional) or a combination of these (Combinatorial). Results were analysed with a 5 (Grade) x 2 (Condition x 3 (Category) Analysis of Variance which indicated no effects for condition, but a Grade x Category interaction. With increasing age, there was a shift from Functional to Combinatorial Definitions; Concretedefinitions were infrequent for all grades. In addition, age changes were found in the forms of the definitions subjects produced. In contrast to the children, adults formulated definitions in a more complex Aristotelian form. It was concluded that noun definition is a metalinguistic ability which follows a course of development similar to that for the acquisition of word meaning.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Language and Linguistics
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Linguistics and Language