This paper analyzes how the verb hope acquires meaning in early childhood. It begins by critiquing the assumption that mental verbs derive meaning from corresponding referents. Meaning is instead constructed as children learn the conventions and practices that guide use of the word within discourse. Describing these conventions and practices illustrates that hope expresses desires and preferences about future, uncertain, and possible events. The ways in which early cognitive development may contribute to children's understanding of hope are discussed. A case study of one child's early use of hope augments the theoretical analyses presented in the paper.

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