Send to

Choose Destination
Front Psychol. 2016 Apr 19;7:470. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00470. eCollection 2016.

An Alternative to Mapping a Word onto a Concept in Language Acquisition: Pragmatic Frames.

Author information

Cognitive Interaction Technology, Bielefeld UniversityBielefeld, Germany; Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Paderborn UniversityPaderborn, Germany.
Cognitive Interaction Technology, Bielefeld University Bielefeld, Germany.
INRIA Bordeaux, France.


The classic mapping metaphor posits that children learn a word by mapping it onto a concept of an object or event. However, we believe that a mapping metaphor cannot account for word learning, because even though children focus attention on objects, they do not necessarily remember the connection between the word and the referent unless it is framed pragmatically, that is, within a task. Our theoretical paper proposes an alternative mechanism for word learning. Our main premise is that word learning occurs as children accomplish a goal in cooperation with a partner. We follow Bruner's (1983) idea and further specify pragmatic frames as the learning units that drive language acquisition and cognitive development. These units consist of a sequence of actions and verbal behaviors that are co-constructed with a partner to achieve a joint goal. We elaborate on this alternative, offer some initial parametrizations of the concept, and embed it in current language learning approaches.


developmental robotics; frames; infants’ social learning; language acquisition; learning and memory; pragmatics

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Frontiers Media SA Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center