The meaning of a word is not acquired in isolation from other words. This article investigates how first-language (L1) and adult second-language (L2) learners of Chinese learn the meanings of verbs belonging to the same semantic domain, focusing on the semantic domain of "carrying/holding" in Chinese. Results revealed that the verb use of L2 adults is heavily influenced by their lexical knowledge of L1 and that their development of word meanings stops before they fully reach the adult native speakers' word meaning. L1 children in contrast tend to depend on perceptually visible features of actions at the initial stage of lexical acquisition and then gradually learn how their L1 categorizes the actions by verbs. We argue that L2 learners need to attain meta-knowledge about the mapping of the entire configuration of the corresponding lexical domain between L1 and L2 and discuss how reading inside and outside of the classroom could foster this process.
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