Hi Norbert, I read your blog and there is much to say. Re the header above (i.e. False Truisms NH), I only fear that you, like the rest of the world, might be taking these findings as an excuse to write off the domain-specific structure-dependent scheme for the lexicon that I have devoted myself to, last several decades! As we say in this new paper, but without room for discussion at all, is that only a minute, tiny, microscopically small set of the words are acquired "by" observation (and even this leaves aside that no one has a clue about how seeing a dog could teach you the "meaning" of dog, though it could spotlight, pun, the intended referent in best cases). We did not sample the words. We deliberately chose from the teeniest set of whole-object basic-level nouns those very few that our subjects could guess with any accuracy at all (roughly, 1/2 the time, with all other words guessed correctly a laughable maximum of 7% of the time), and only from specially chosen "good" exemplars. All the same, "syntactic bootstrapping" skirts with circularity unless there is another -- non-syntactic -- procedure to learn a few "seed" words, those that, once and painfully acquired, can help you build a representation of the input (something like a rudimentary clause, or at least, to decide on the structural position of the Subject NP); it is that improved input that next makes a snap of learning all the words. So if we now say (and we do) that there is a procedure for asyntactic, domain-general, learning of first words, this alone can't do for all the rest (try learning probably, think etc from watching scenarios in which these words are uttered -- or try even learning jump, tail, animal from the evidence of the senses, as Plato rightly noted). So please though I'm pleased at your response to this new work, don't forget that its role is minute over the lexical stock, though crucial as the starting point.
Second, it turns out (I believe) that one trial learning is the rule rather than an exception that god makes for word learning in particular. Despite my fondness for the small-set-of-options story we told in that first paper (don't you love it! something right about it) it turns out that subjects behave the same way if you put them in the icon-to-sound experimental condition studied by our opponents. And I have attached the paper showing this! The paper you read examines the natural case (using video of real contexts) and this paper examines the fake case, but in so doing achieves a level of experimental control we couldn't attain originally. Again it is one-trial learning with no savings of the choices not made. I think you'll like this, because it really exposes the logic. And most important, it turns out (we at least mention this past-and-present literature on one-trial learning, particularly Gallistel, who speaks for the ants and the wasps) that learning in general (until, as I say, it becomes structured) across tasks and species has this character. There has always been a small subset of the psychologists (Rock, Guthrie, Gallistel...) who denied, on their data + logic that associationist, gradualist, learning was the key, but they have always been overwhelmed in number and influence by the associationists. As you point out, even you (even Chomsky, if you want to go back to his early writings) think/thought about phoneme/morpheme learning this way. A marvelous new paper from Roediger traverses this literature and ably makes the case that learning in the general case is more determinative and less statistical than you thought.
We have some new work, I think important, showing the temporal and situational conditions that actually support the primitive first procedure for word learning.