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 journalArticlepeer-review


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 (US)
Pages (from-to)155-159
Number of pages5
JournalChild Development Perspectives
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Cognitive development
  • Cross-linguistic studies
  • Infancy
  • Language development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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