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MwJ & Language 155rv O1oa-IOo4

Vot 3 No. 3 Autuum 1988 ( ú lì-1,1 dóulwell

Article
Conceptual Differences Between
Children and Adults

SUSAN CAREY

1. An Anecdote

In a talk in which I described an extended case study of the young
child's acquisition of biological knowledge (Carey 1985), 1 claimed that the
preschool child's concepts animal and baby differ from our adult concepts.'
One source of evidence for this claim is that 4- and 5-year-olds typically
do not realize that all animals have babies, indicating a concept linirnal
without reproduction as a core property, and a concept baby not tied to
the young of each animal species. A few days after the talk I received a
l etter from Barbara Dosher, reporting a conversation with her 4-yeirr-old
son. Doubting my claim, she had asked him whether pigeons havei baby
pigeons. He had replied, 'Sure, and dogs have baby dogs; cows have baby
cows; cats have baby cats...'. At this point, her doubts confirme( she
asked 'and what about worms; do worms have baby worms? He stopped
dead in his tracks, thought for a long time, and finally replied, slppwly,
' No ...worms have short worms.' Being an articulate youngster, he jcould
explain perfectly the difference between baby animals and short w~.Mns.
The essence of his account: babies are small, helpless, versions of t igger
creatures, who because of their behavioural limitations, require the rigger
ones to take care of them. As he explained, baby birds cannot tlyk and
need their parents to bring them worms; baby cats and dogs do not , have
their eyes open, and cannot walk; and baby people, the archetypical baby
creatures, are useless-they can't talk, walk, play, eat by themselve$, use

' In this paper I will use 'concept x' and 'meaning of the term "x"' mlerchai .'14y In
bulk cases, I refer to mentally represented concepts and meanings. fn Carey I 't15 both
linguistic and nonlinguistic methods were employed to diagnose the young 0111d'$
concepts and meanings In every case that I found a difference in meaning of r terni
'x' between the child's lexicon and the adult's, there was a corresponding drlterence
i n the concept x, as revealed by patterns of inductive projection, sorting tasks, and
other tasks riot requiring the use of the term.

why do we want to say that the two languages are incommensur- 2. on the other. including mastering the other's methods the ey treme end of which are concepts embedded in incommensurable of reference fixing. for two reasons. First. in that all of the cases of 'dephlogisticated' were so designated.2 Beyond Reference that oif the adult's. In the most extreme cases. and 'short' worms. Further. the defi- relative to the bigger ones. He points out that there are multiple methods expressed a theory in which all dephlogisticated substances shared an for fixing the reference of any given term: definitions.' conceptual system of the preschool child (see Section 4 below). This is because such a process of replacement will typically replace a Ll term with one L2 term in some contexts and l anguages that are not mutually translatable. Therefore. Second.I's methods fail to provide any referent for the term at all. It is to the notion of local incommensurability that I now turn. even in worms. the perspective of L2 dictates that some theory change entails incommensurability of all terms. laws. but Kitcher points out. essential property that explained derivative properties. since communication is ensured if one can figure be dis inguished from holding different beliefs. the beliefs. so that entities. in various descriptions of how to produce 'dephlogisticated air'. 2 Further. in language l other L2 terms in other contexts. This is possible. where reference is fixed then you might as well think of small rocks as baby rocks. we replace sentences in LI with sentences in L2 that have the same meaning. understand texts written in a language putatively incommensurable with Ì our own. animals and babies might well lead to asserting that worms do cases of language change between Ll and L2. in other uses of 'phlogiston'. is determined by the theory in which they are embedded. When pressed by his mother whether you could think of short worms as baby worms. whereas bankrupt that there is no way for the small ones to have a limited repertoire others provide different referents from each other. then. having different concepts is to guages can communicate. enriched air. conce itual systems. But just what does that claim come to? First of all. is consistent with As Kitchens hypothetical conversation between Priestley and Cavendish is meant to show. For example. for analogous reasons. he replied that you could if you wanted to. even for the terms for which there is mismatch. understand each other. Holding different beliefs about mismatched methods of reference fixing. and if we can. . That is. or oxygen i n the. his language l anguage 2 (L2).For example. Local Incommensurability able? In answering this question. descriptions. so that in many contexts the terms will refer to the doubt there is no single sense of 'different concept' to be defended. the methods of reference fixing for many terms that appear in both languages remain entirely not hive baby worms. Incommensurability arises when an LI set of methods of reference surabilily doctrine of Feyerabend 1962. In this paper I wish td explore the possibility that in some ccases the child's conceptual system may be incommensurable with 2. cannot be expressed in terms of the terminology at the end. on the one hand. Conceptual Differences Between Children and Adults 169 168 Mind & Language the toilet or anything. To figure out what a text is referring to is not the same 2. explanations statable in the terminology at the beginning. which holds that the meaning of all terms. even contemporaries who speak incommensurable lan- my claim that he has a different concept baby than do you or 1. But it matters to the meaning of the Ll text that a single Ll term was used. Thus. Kitcher outlines (and endorses) Kuhn's i n Ll can be replaced with coreferential expressions in L2. Each theory presupposes that for each term. in some circum- stances.1 Mismatch of Referential Potential as to provide a translation for the text. However. theory. it is perfectly This anecdote illustrates that properties of animals which are embedded possible for us to understand what chemicals are being talked about. His idea seems to be that worms are so behaviourally of [. you would not want to call them nition of 'phlogiston' as 'the principle given off during combustion'. ev 2n in cases of children hold different beliefs from adults. Even if expressions I n his contribution in this issue. Kuhn moves beyond the referential aspect of language. If speakers of putatively incommensurable languages can. Kitcher focuses on the referential potential of terms. communication is possible because the two speakers assume that there is a continuum of degrees of conceptual differences. Concepts may differ along many dimensions. Nobody would doubt that out what the other is referring to. we are not thesis that there are episodes in the history of science at the beginnings and ends of which practitioners of the same field of endeavor speak guaranteed a translation. from the radical incomrnen- referent. As he explicates Kuhn's thesis. its multiple methods of reference fixing pick out a single 7 Kuhn's doctrine of local incommensurability differs. the child's drawing the distinction between 'baby' mammals and birds. even fixing for some term are seen by L2 to pick out two or more distinct observation terms. no is still some overlap. i n a biological context in the adult's conceptual system are not so embedded the referent of the phrase can be identified as either oxygen. In a translation. it mattered to Priestley ( LI). For example. I same entities. there with a less radical claim than that the child's concepts baby and animal differ from the adult's. The process of relative similarity to particular exemplars. as ' babies'. by our lights. by the description of the production of some chemical. in Kuhn's (1982) sense of local incommensurability. fails to provide any referent for 'phlogiston' at all. the anecdote above certainly is consistent constant . at can learn each others' language.

phlogiston. see Kuhn 1977). where L2 contains two.g. Not all cases in which distinctions previously undrawn is not translation. but thereby produce a language. Intensive quantities are ratios and therefore not concepts are all interdefined. The translator's gloss dence would support the claim. To make sense of McKic and Heathcote's claim. neither of which leads to a real translation: required to raise the temperature of I gram of water 1 degree centigrade.) expressed in languages incommensurable with our own. We cannot translate sentences containing additive-if 1 cup of water at 80 degrees F is added to 1 cup at 100 degrees ' phlogiston' into pure 20th century language. But we cannot tity.g. of water). and does not merely distinguish Collies. while temperature an intensive quan- at all that corresponds to phlogiston theory's principle. Lack of differentiation between heat and temperature is surely though languages expressing conceptual systems with either sets of ther- ' disjointed text'. differentiation. not 180 degrees F. by our lights there could be no concept for such a term to express. Often purely linguistic evidence is offered. one reason that we cannot heat and temperature. . a calorie is the amount of heat t wo options. the argument Characterizing change at the level of individual concepts is no simple goes. a difference. others with 'oxy. more than 2. then typically change ' Carey 1985 argues that the 2-year-old's concept dog differs from the adult's. come to be drawn imply incommensurability. then.3 Conceptual Differentiation if two successive langua. To explore these to us so that we understand them? Part of the answer to this challenge problems. What one does in this process plays no role in L2. interprets. to the other.1 contains only one term. modern chemistry has no concept tudes. but rather interpretation and language learning. these arid temperature were not differentiated. cut up the world in incompatible ways. We replace each of these terms with different terms and phrases one representational alternative could underlie any case of undifferentiated i n different contexts. 1. This would require that thermal sets of terms can. and translate. There are several types of conceptual change--different ations gen enriched'. we are chang. we must be able to 1. If earlier theories are and after Newton. We face problems both of analysis and of evidence. because when it comes to F. fur these the sum of that in each. using words like 'principle' and 'element' we are forced to choose one of heat and temperature are interdefined-e. concept fusing heat and temperature and we must understand what evi- i ng L. if a text between natural and violent motion was seen to be a distinction Without made sense in Ll. Furthermore. and often do. which together describe Consider McKie and Heathcote's (1935) claim that before Black heat natural phenomena and express theories.. and describe them matter. t herefore have an undifferentiated concept dog relative to adults. the resultant temperature is 90 degrees F. Such a text is not a translation. is the method for teaching speakers of L2 the new language. and the two were collapsed into a single notion). much stays the same. Once the historian has learned L1. he or she can teach it to us. Heat and temperature are two entirely different types of physical magni- and. one cart see no reason that these sentences ocity. Across different languages. like the anthropologist. let us consider just one type of conceptual change-conceptual has already been sketched above.' community learns a whole set of terms together. because it does representationally different from mere absence of the concept heat. a good translation of it into L2 will make sense in L2. preserving reference. German Shepherds. While parts of Ll and L2 are incommen.es are incommensurable. local incommensurability arises because a language adult's conceptual system.. concept dog could well play the same role in both the 2-year-old's and the On Kuhn's view. However. coalescences (as when Aristotle's distinction are juxtaposed. Note that in the language of our current theories. We use 'principle' and 'element'. possible is often offered as prima facie properties being reanalyzed as relations (as in the concept weight before refutation of the doctrine of incommensurability. but not at the level of individual concepts has occurred in the transition from one because it is undifferentiated relative to the adult's. Cocker Spaniels and Poodles.. Extensive quantities. Indeed. yields what Kuhn (as in Galileo's differentiation of average velocity from instantaneous vel- describes as 'a disjointed text'. 2. heat is an extensive quantity. The phlogiston theory's 'element' encompassed many things we do not consider elements. The his. acids. without using the concepts principle. are additive-the total amount of heat in two cups of water is etc. fusing our concepts To continue with the phlogiston theory example. The cases of differentiation that involve local incoCnmen- surable. airs. theories before Black represented a single concept. even not make sense as a whole. A good translation not only preserves reference. Rather than providing a translation. and simple That the history of science is . but the and then we can understand the earlier theory as well. express claims about phlogiston in our language is that we do not share there is no superordinate term that encompasses both of these meanings. enabling speakers of the two languages to surability are those in which the undifferentiated parent concept from L1 figure out what each other must be saying. 1 cup express the phlogiston theory's understanding of combustion. replacing some uses of 'dephlogisticated' with 'oxygen'. the phlogiston theory's concepts principle and element. Conceptual Differences Between Children and Adults 171 170 Mind & Language . The 2-year-old may not torian of science. such as the amount of heat in a body (e.2 for the purposes of rendering the text. arid still others with other phrases. as an example of the extreme case. but provide a translator's gloss conceive how it might be possible for there to be a single undifferentiated before the text. element. how can the historian understand those theories.

Where does children's conceptual The only way to distinguish these two alternative representational states systems provide any phenomena like those of the phlogiston the- of affairs (false belief in perfect correlation. again coming in two parts. First. they did relate system. Four Reasons to Doubt Incommensurability Between Children age? And the answer is also analogous. not because the two are incommensurable.kt. and Adults to the degree that the child's language is incommensurable with the adults. • c hologists who study cognitive development depict children's t wo qu ntities are perfectly correlated. . adult interprets the child's language. any theory after Black. No such concept plays any role in The answer to this objection has two parts. 5f Heathcote's claim of nondifferentiation. degree of heat. state of affairs that might mimic nondifferentiation is the false belief that 2.. Ps . Where's the body? Granted children cannot express all of the adult fixed a nount of heat to a fixed mass always led to a fixed increase in conceptual system in their language. absence of one or the other ory? Where is a preschool child's 'phlogiston' or 'principle'? concept) from conceptual nondifferentiation is to analyze the role the 4. the adult does not express the child's beliefs in our language. namely. Dosher would not have realized that her son meant it expresses (C1) might sometimes be incommensurable with the language something different by his claim that dogs have baby dogs than what she (1. which might produce texts that mensurability requires that L2 not be able to express L1 as well as would 'suggest that the two were undifferentiated. Had it not been fo. There is no way that incommensurability could arise. terns would ever be incommensurable with adults': this is possible because of the considerable overlap between the two. a singe thermal variable to mechanical phenomena.-cA. Wiser learn their language from the adult culture. Therefore. but this is because L1 is a temperature. L1 not being able to express L2. For example. the adult can represent the child's ideas. Locally incommensurable conceptual systems may overlap considerably on t otally common ground. discoveries of specific and latent heat. How could children and C$rey 1983 analyzed the concept heat in the thermal theory of the establish sets of terms that are interrelated differently from adult seventeenth-century Academy of Florence.4 Summary i ndicates. A second representational 1. We found evidence supporting McKie and UC 1~~~y~ ` ~. 'hot'. Children concepts played in the theories in which they were embedded. it is an empirical question just how perfectly adults understand preschool children. as the anecdote about the concept baby 2. B. such that the undifferen. as stressed above. t he same domain of nature. We are asking whether L1 can be translated into L2 without a translator's 3. which by analyzing contexts we now see sometimes referred to temperature and sometimes to amount of heat.2. phenomena. Ac ults communicate with preschool ch ldren just fine. Such a belief could lead scientists to use one quantity as a subset of L2. is it possible for the historian of science to express in today's language an earlier theory that was expressed in a putatively incommensurable langu- 3. scientists believed that adding a 3. First. how concepts played no role in C1.1 Adults and Preschool Children Communicate a single undifferentiated concept that conflated heat and temperature to these 'seventeenth-century scientists. aspects of both modern that while the young child's conceptual system may not be able to express heat and temperature. Second. The Experimenters (their own self-designation) did all that the adult's can.2) and conceptual system (C2) of adults. the question of whether worms When we ask whether the language of children (Ll) and conceptual system have baby worms. we are asking whether there is a set of concepts at the core of C1 that cannot be expressed in terms of C2. consists of enrichment of the child's conceptual - seek to study the relations between the two. How is the Study of Cognitive tiations and coalescences between C1 and C2. and unlike Black. Rather. Otherwise. learns it. and vice-versa. Incom- rough end ready stand-in for the other. Second.2 Developmental Psychologists Must Express Children's Beliefs in the gloss. where C1 and C2 encompass would mean. on this view. Furthermore.il- study thermal. 172 Mind & Language Conceptual Differences Between Children and Adults 173 mal concepts might have only one word. the I have encountered four reasons to doubt that children's conceptual sys. Cognitive not separately quantify heat and temperature. we can be confident in ascribing 3. and teaches it to us. did not development. Adult Language. local incommensurability does not require complete lack of communication. Development Possible? tiated concepts in Cl no longer play any role in C2 and the coalesced This question is analogous to that discussed in Section 2. Incommensurability arises when there are simultaneous differen. the first group to systematically i nterrelations? vi q. until it matches that of the adult. perhaps before Black's conceptualizations in the adult language. The Academy's heat had both f\J 4 - Those who offer one or more of the above objections share the intuition causal strength and qualitative intensity-that is.

The Evidence mismatches of methods of reference sometimes lead to uses of terms where in the lights of L2.3. the child learning chemistry and the explanation for the same conceptual base. mechanics is incommensurable with Einsteinian mechanics. from patterns of attribution of various biological properties to animals. to be interpreter and language conceptualization is incommensurable with the C2 that L2 expresses. is that the child learns language from the holding different beliefs from the adult. like the historian. he invariably speaks of these as 'being learned together' conceptualization of animals. I argue that conceptual changje occurs coalescences. Before giving a Ilavór of of the sets of interrelated terms that shift in meaning between incommen. weight. out case studies of children's conceptualization. The only way to tell is to analyze the 4 hole set combustion would never learn a word like 'principle'. causation. different beliefs formula ed over adult culture. When Kuhn speaks of concepts and beliefs which underly them. density (Smith. 1 ' principle' in the child's language. Newtonian death. such as the incommen- surability of the phlogiston theory and modern chemistry. domains of nature. However. the language they actually construct is constrained both by the ing.g. One domain encompasses the child's sought is such a case where the child Ll contains terms that are absent concepts matter.1 An Overview-The Preschool Child's Concept Animal surable with L2? At the core of preschool children's conception of animals is the capacity While children learn language from adults. As they learn the terms of their language. and inert objects which can only . plant. on the one hand. more exten- know of no such example--1 cannot produce the body required. a term of Ll has no referent at all. since each term cannot be understood in isolation. eat. in such cases I have carried. Of course I have not shown that such incommensurability actually ever obtains. But the language being spoken to the child is L2. such as 'phlogiston' and 'principle'. but Newton's from the second case. as well as data drawn with the caloric theory. 174 Mind & Language Conceptual Differences Between Children and Adults 175 enabling the psychologist. sleep. from the adult 1?. encompasses the child's concepts animal. when one learns the language. while there may be no bodies such as 'phlogiston' or between the age of 4 and 10. person. Similarly. local incommensurability does not require these extremes. surability. etc. why would the child construct a L1 incommen. Here I will draw my examples . i ncommensurability arises from sets of core concepts being interrelated plants and inanimate objects. The other domain.3 Where's the Body? expect incommensurability between young children's and adult's concep- tual systems. they are not blank slates as of animals to act. growth. 1985 for a full account of empirical data drawn from interviews with enters' source-recipient theory of thermal phenomena is incommensurable children on death.2. eyes for seeing. An animal's action is explained in terms of intentional regards their conceptual system. from pattern of inductive projection. baby. such as irawing 3. as well in different ways. sively studied. but contains no such bodies. Of course. material kind.e. breathe. The child thinks of people's conceptual system provides the hypotheses concerning word meanings. and cannot be defined in L2. Local incommensurability could arise when this self-generated behavior. I will present an overview of the preschoo child's surable systems. i. just as are a person's behaviors. Thus the language they are hearing and the conceptualization of the world they i mportant conceptual contrast for the child is between things capable of have already constructed. The most convincing cases of local incommensurability from the history of science exemplify the extremes sketched above. or Would Incommensurability claiming that buttons are alive because they hold one's pants up. the Florentine Experim. an animal's behaviors are understood in terms of its wants they must map these onto the concepts they have available to them. Their and beliefs. The 'body' being i ncommensurable with the adult's.of two the sets of interdefined terms in Ll contain members with no correspond. E. Thus. mouths for making noises and eating. That is the task of the next section.4 How Arise? the distinction between baby mammals and birds and short wirms. such an analysis. 4. In such cases. see Car . Let me admit now that I 1985. the reason that there are no bodies as sought in Section 3. Carey and Wiser. see also Piaget and Inhelder 1941). seems to hold beliefs that are inexplicable to the adult. and animals' bodies as the physical support for action-legs are for walk- Thus. reproduction. it is still an empirical questicn whether The central phenomenon diagnosing developmental cases of incpmmen- cases of incommensurable conceptual systems between children and adults surability is the same as that diagnosing historical cases as well: the child are to be found. In this section I have countered four arguments that we should not 3. and from several simultaneous differentiations and as other experimental paradigms. such phenomena merely raise the possibility of local incommen- Presumably. Being learned together is necessary. the human body. In these cases.'! y system contains no bodies in this sense. learner. 4. etc. since it is possible that they result from no more than the child's at least in the case of L1. Space allows the sketchiest treatment. alive. and in both cases the child's concepts are Locally i ng terms at all in 1. Also.

Now. and maintains that the bear therefore. in the sense that a table is not alive. ' not à live'. and 'dead' only increase her puzzlement. breathing. posed the question to their subjects as follows: not mentioned in the literature on the child's conception of death. the sun is animate or inanimate. cars.' scho I child's concept death is nonbiological. if asked to give some 1940 Koocher 1974. 'movies. and mistake. they do not realize that all animals share certain aspects of moves sometimes. and fire are alive. on the other. and say that one or more of the sun. is enon of childhood animism and the nondifferentiation of inanimate from shown in Vignette 4. This phenomenon has now been replicated hun- and . that are not alive are inanimate objects such as tables and chairs. t he solutions to these problems. nonexistent. can see tables and chairs. imaginary. or Von Hug-Hellmuth 1964. one can still see them. the child's concept alive. if statues its focus on action. but if it gets i ncludes unreal. the question of whether a car is alive or dead involves a category non(#ifferentiated notion plays no role in our adult conceptual system. All of these sources agree that the characterization of the pre. 176 Mind & Language Conceptual Differences Between Children and Adults 177 move through the agency of an external cause. 'monsters'. and other features not part of our run over it is dead. etc. Nagy 1948. they do inanimate-results from. According to the child's understand. plants. preschool children answer 'George exan ples). Two sets of conceptions. 'pictures'. or is not. since it exemplifies non-differentiation. the moon. That the dead still exist. but it could also be dubbed a 'vitalist biology' because are not alive. the child is being t hem have been many studies of the young child's concept. however. not understand eating.2 The Child's Conception of Death Piaget showed that children under age 6 or 7. alive. In Vignette 5 Eliza wonders why. Rather. That the child's concept of life differs from the adult's is suggested by the robust phenomenon of childhood animism. Vignette 1 shows her first understanding of death as or dead. existent. Carey 1985 characterized it gets the child into conceptual difficulties (from our point of view). they are and yself that are typical of the material in the case studies and interviews deciding whether the sun is active. adding the problem of why you year-old (or biologically unsophisticated adult) in two major respects. because they make a point Russell and Dennis 1940. living on in altered circumstances. the teleological 4. as constituting interrelated bodily systems. entailing the absence of the dead person-'it's sad because you can't talk The second set of data showing the interrelation between the phenom- t o him'. is a car alive or dead? Is the sun alive aduli conception. for typical examples of things that are not alive. namely. data show the relation between childhood animism and the nondifferen- Beca ise of the importance of the concept death to psychoanalytic theory. is middle-sized.its interpretation requires the interpretation of many interrelated dreds of times (see Chapter 1 of Carey 1985. mostly relying asked to judge whether each of a list of animals. What preschool children do not offer as examples of things cleat i s the separation from the dead. Preceding the interview. this theory differs from the 'mechanistic biology' of the 10. when interviewed about what it is for something to be alive. and plays a role in. A cat is alive. since they are not alive. real. Relatedly. including alive and internal body parts and bodily functions. nonexistent. bathroom. the circulatory system. At this age the essence of ( Carey 1985). and inanimate on irterviews or on case studies of the authors' own children (cf. i ng. Ten-year- olds have constructed a mechanistic biology in both of these respects. In Vignette 3. Washington'. on the one hand. 'my grandfather'. bicycles. not having differentiated inanimate from dead. i s with the child's concept. wind. whether sleet. because they cannot even entertain that Ta lie 1 lists bits of conversations between my own preschool daughter question. for the child. In the animism interview.3 The Child's Conception 6f Life goal of which is to maintain and support the bodily machine. while each species is simultaneously The lack of differentiation of two senses of 'not alive'-dead and characterized by some unique aspects of its solutions. a good place to start are alive.. the nervous system. cone'rning death.. Anthony objects is. since her Grandpa is dead and you of its focus on internally generated activity as the core property of animals. in which she wonders how dead people go to the dead is from the first replication of Piaget's animism studies in English. for a review). namely 'dead'. as in the sense that George Washington is not alive and 'inanimate'.. things To get a feel for the evidence for this characterization. My attempts to explain the difference between 'inanimate' At any rate. they example). Thus. The basic nondifferentiation is between two senses of or dead? Is a tree alive or dead?. between alive and dead. Death is seen as avoidable and reversible. I show these vignettes._ him. death. a mere representation. and that ~s that death is. for when preschool children are deciding whether the sun is alive or not. maintain that active. present... This single To us. as the preschool child's theory of animals as a 'naive psychology' because of shown in vignettes 3 and 5. tiation of dead and inanimate. as a special type of are not answering the question we think we are putting. first described by Piaget 1929. 4. inanimate. 'fairies'. concludes that she (the bear) such' universal biological problems as reproduction and obtaining food. the very question presupposes that a car is the kind of thing that . useful. First. can't se. the dead live on. in altered circumstances (under the ground. part of an undifferentiated concept that You know what it means to be alive. Eliza gets preschool children do not understand that each animal species must solve tied up as to the status of her stuffed bear.

What do you have in you? Preschool children could not possibly have this biological conception of E. Preschool children are largely ignorant of the organs found inside the S. Both 'alive' and 'dead' are nonbiological concepts for W. although not the same as either of these questions as put b y an she gathered that when somebody is dead you can't talk to them. like chairs-they aren't ever alive. The stomach is for food. What? E. E. S. this replication yielded data indistinguishable from the standard Piagetian interview. and the legs for walking. lie there.But they ate or drank before they died-they have to go to the bathroom from just eat candy. so they don't have to go to the bathroom. they're not alive. they are merely opposites: Vignette 2 (3:6) ' dead' is 'not alive'. and talking. but other things. but you can still see them. death is not simply the negation of life. the heart for S. This theory. in which the question ìs pu 'Is a One preschooler's struggle with the concept of death car alive or not alive?' But this should now come as no surprise. I see. and the end of the life cycle of every living organism. so t hey can't die. Maybe they have bathrooms under the ground. air) must be delivered to all parts of the body to support growth and activity. Out of a long explanation dead. For preschool children. they assign functions to them on the S. but as of yet they know of S. and not in terms of the functioning of internal body S.g. for they lack the notion of the bodily machine. that eating before they died (triumphant at having found a flaw in my argument).' adult point of view) concepts. Vignette 3). the question of whether an bject Vignette 1 (2:6) is alive or inanimate is the same question as whether an object is alive or Eliza first became interested in the concept of death at about 2:6 when she was told t hat her grandfather. No. S. They don't eat or drink. and they have constructed a crude mechanistic biology theory that encompasses all animals. she's middle-sized-in between alive and dead. food. bones. Nonetheless. For several adult. they're dead. lunch and dinner. they just parts. because she's not a big. Well. How do dead people go to the bathroom? tualize processes such as eating and breathing in terms of the behavior of S. Rather. for example. principle: one organ. blood. 'lie's dead-I the preschool child. processes such as breathing and eating are not yet seen as supporting life S. htiside? death. Are you? human body. and both are part of larger undifferentiated (from the can left because he's not moving. Anything else? 4. the inevitable breakdown of Vignette 3 (around 3:6) the bodily machine. What's funny about that? no bodily mechanisms ui.. The . are alive and then when they die. Isn't that funny. the difference between breakfast. albeit in different ways. real person. Dead people don't have to go to the bathroom. She moves sometimes. At this age the child knows no interrelations between such processes as eating and breathing. bathing. just as the eyes are for seeing E. (Table E. states that certain crucial substances (e. Is she alive or dead? E. you know. Dead. Skin. is she alive? bones-what comes out if you cut your skin and what you can feel. most typically children of this age know only of blood and S. well. j ust as t hey do not realize that all animals have babies. They don't do anything. Yes. One indication that E. Children of this age may know Vignette 5 (around 3:8) such regularities as that if you don't eat healthy food you will get sick. whcre sotviebody was shot. she would bring up the tact that her grandpa was dead and that was sad For both children and adults. 178 Mind & Language Conceptual Differences Between Children and Adults 179 Table I could be dead. the brain is for thinking. months. eilying such regularities. had died before she was bom. E. S.4 The Human Body E. people and animals can be alive and dead--first they is that preschool children do not realize that all animals eat and breathe. Oh. E. one function. As Eliza answered when asked what was inside her. not very big-she can never die. death is a biological necessity. Eli. etc. S. body parts. nor between bodily Vignette 4 (around 3:6) systems such as the circulatory and digestive systems. Isn't it funny-statues aren't alive but you can still see them? and that if you don't eat a' .. is a process of the same sort as playing. No-she's dead. That's right. she said excitedly. We have already seen that for the preschool child. Now children know many internal see them. she'll always be alive) 1. No. makes you feel better if you are hungry. arching a TV prograr. Rather. Grandpa's dead and you can't see him. dubbed by Crider 1981 'the container theory'. HOW CAN THAT BE? Insofar as they know internal organs. because you couldn't talk to him. 11 you may die. they concep- E.. Important facts about eating include when one is allowed to S. Eating. S. For adults. Does your bear have bones and blood inside her? E. the whole person. Did she used to he alive? making blood. Tables and chairs are not alive arid they're not dead and you can still By age 10 this picture no longer holds. the concepts death and life are interrelated.

3. but G. 357-385.Well. H. 1983: When heat and temperature were one. been coalesced into the single biological concept living thing. comparability. and a host.. father. For the preschool Nagy. 1929: The Child's Conception of the World. terms 'alive'. N. S. I have sketched such a gloss for the Gentner and A. eds. grow'. baby. B.. i ng re lied. R. Asked lie causes of death. Keil. Development of animism. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Cognition. as resulting from the breakdown of bodily functioning. 1962: Explanation. S. D. F. we ha'e seen. eat. 5. embedded in locally incommensurable conceptual systems. C. 404-410. G. J. there's lots of ways it can get started. 1983: On the emergence of semantic and conceptual distinctions. the concepts animal and plant have Neuchateli Delchaux et Niestle. Cambridge: MIT Press. New York: Harcourt. In T. M. C. 'When the heart stops. 1935. or having Piaget. 1977: A function for thought experiments. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1940: The Child's Discovery of Death. In R. Stevens. this analysis reveals that the child's concepts baby and animal are different from the adult's. 1983: Children's conceptions of the body interior. C. Piaget. Children's Conceptions of Health. Kuhn. H. Feigl and breathi ig. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Erlbaum. eds. and Dennis.. 1964: The child's concept of death.natural kinds. Journal of Genetic child. S. and density. M. and Carey. all of these concepts are simultaneously adjusted. are fundamentally behaving beings. Preschool children consider it a category Kegan Paul. 02139 . Bibace and death death tliologically.t. and the circulatory system delivers these substances all around. that's hat really happens' (Koocher 1974). W. reduction. S. 499-516. Mass. PSA. Maxwell. 5 and 6 of ( arey 1985) the development of the concepts of size. 1985: Conceptual Change in Childhood. T. Walsh. W. Coalescences also occur. P. London: Edward Arnold. communicability. Carey. By age 10. an articulate child with this type of understand- San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. London: Routledge and active . Returning to the anecdote concern- i ng 'short worms'. the lungs for air. These simultaneous differentiations and coalescences yield mismatch of Von Hug-Hellmuth. Mental Models. Illness and Bodily Functions. ed. and also ensure that the child's beliefs cannot be expressed in the adult Wiser. breathe. S. and empiricism. S. J. 1986: loo differ •n tiation: A case study of (see Chapters 1. The Discovery of Specific and Latent system includes undifferentiated concepts that no longer play any role in Heal. In the course of the emergence of an intuitive biological theory in the years before age 10. eds. M. Kuhn. 2. 3-27. Here I have The Essential Tension. M. Carey 1985 does a more thor. I submit that the preschool child's concept animal and the adult's are Kuhn. American Journal of Inconrinensurahle7 Orthopsychiatria. 1982: Commensurability. weigt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. And as' the studies of the child's concept death universally show. Brace. 1941: Le developpement des quanlites chez l'enfant. Quarterly.36' playing no role whatsoever in the conceptual system of the preschool child Smith. the adult conceptual system. breathing. Are the Preschool Child's and the Adult's Concepts Koocher. 1948: The child's theories concerning death. Vol.. while plants are non. like rocks. as Psychology. In H. blood stops circulating. 1940: Studies in animism: 11. and 'dead'. 180 Mind & Language Conceptual Differences Between Children and Adults 181 body has major containers for each substance. it is at Anthony. P.3-. the stomach References for food. ough job. Psychoanalytic referential potential between the language of preschool children and adults. you stop Feyerabend. 'not alive'. Carey. and also glosses 'mother. T. the latter Russell. 1974: Talking with children about death. Vol. and lleathcote. and that's it. 1-f.. attempted to support my contention by showing that the child's conceptual McKie. and Inhelder. l anguage without a translator's gloss. In D. Ilillsdate. tnimals and plants are totally different types of things-animals. of additional interrelated terms. mistake to attribute animal properties like eating. S. in the strong sense of being part of l ocally incommensurable conceptual systems. V. NJ: Lawrence child's. Department of Psychology MIT Cambridge. t he age~ ~that children have this mechanistic theory that they first conceive of Crider. babies to plants (Keil 1983). Journal of Genetic Psychology 35. and Wiser.